Friday 23 February 2018

AIL final will give Blues fans glimpse of their future props

Clontarf loosehead prop Ian Hirst has signed a professional contract with Leinster
Clontarf loosehead prop Ian Hirst has signed a professional contract with Leinster
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

There are sure to be plenty of Leinster supporters keeping a close eye on tomorrow's Ulster Bank League Division 1A final and not just because it is a Dublin derby.

The province recently confirmed that props Ian Hirst (loosehead) and Royce Burke-Flynn (tighthead) have signed professional contracts and will provide some much-needed cover when Leinster will be without several front-line players during the World Cup.

The Clontarf duo have impressed for the 'A' team this season but it is their club form that has really caught the eye.

Matt O'Connor has already shown that will look to the AIL for cover with Darragh Fanning (St Mary's), Jack Conan (Old Belvedere) and Mick McGrath (Clontarf) all making the step up recently.


Hirst was nominated for the AIL Player of the Year last season, while Burke-Flynn has had spells in South Africa with Western Province, Italian outfit Livorno, French Pro D2 team Montauban and Doncaster Knights before returning to Ireland.

Clontarf coach Andy Wood is full of admiration for what both players have achieved under his tutelage and is expecting them to play a key role against Lansdowne tomorrow.

"From a prop's perspective, the set-piece is extremely important. They're both able scrummagers, good lifters and they're smart in how they approach the game itself," Wood said.

"They're great around the park and are very explosive runners when they get the space."

"Royce has been captain on a couple of occasions when Sam Cronin has been out injured so he's shown an exceptional level of leadership, which he does anyway as pack leader.

"Hirsty prides himself on getting around the track effectively. They deserve what they've got and we're pleased and very proud that they've gone on with Leinster."

Centre Matt D'Arcy is another who has been a standout performer in the AIL and with mutterings that O'Connor may also look at him ahead of next season, Wood has no doubt that he could make the step up.


D'Arcy captained the Ireland Clubs side earlier this year and will be hoping to further impress at the Aviva Stadium in a game that is also being shown live on television.

"It depends on the academy guys and where Leinster see him fitting in but does he have the ability? Absolutely," Wood said.

"Certainly going forward, he's a very dangerous runner in broken field situations. He's one of those players who creates quite a lot out of very little.

"I'd love to see him progress further up there because he certainly has the raw talent to do it," he added.

The AIL continues to be the bedrock of Irish rugby and tomorrow afternoon, Leinster fans will be able to get a glimpse of some of their future players whom they may not be all that familiar with.

And who knows, maybe the realisation that the league regularly produces some thrilling rugby will also set in.

Irish Independent

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