Monday 18 December 2017

Blow for Leo Cullen as Leinster star confirms departure for Worcester Warriors

Leinster's Ben Te'o
Leinster's Ben Te'o
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Leinster centre Ben Te'o has joined Aviva Premiership side Worcester Warriors as he looks to pursue international ambitions with England.

Auckland-born Te'o represented Samoa in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup before making a code switch last year, making 23 appearances since joining Leinster in October 2014.

The 29-year-old is qualified to play for England through his mother and is coveted by new England coach Eddie Jones.

It is understood that Worcester, currently 10th in the Premiership with just two wins from six games, have significantly blown the competition out of the water and that Leinster just couldn’t compete with their salary offer.

Today Te'o thanked Leinster for giving him his opportunity in rugby union.

"Everything is in place for Worcester to become a successful Club competing in the top tier and I'm excited about getting started at Sixways," he said.

"I'd like to thank Leinster Rugby for giving me the opportunity to go back to Union and to the fans for their support in particular when out injured. I look forward to finishing the season with Leinster as strong as possible."

A designated project player in Ireland, he was in demand across England and France, while the Queensland Reds were also looking for his services with Michael Cheika keen to make him part of his Australian plans. He could also have returned to rugby league, but ultimately took the best offer on the table.

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen admitted he was disappointed but understands it is a move based on international ambitions.

"Although disappointed that Ben is leaving, on behalf of everyone at Leinster Rugby, we would like to wish Ben the very best with his move to Worcester and indeed with his quest to play international rugby," he said.

"Ben is a very popular player within the group and we believe that he can still play a big part in our season. He showed in his last season with the Rabbitohs that he has the skill set to apply himself brilliantly in delivering some big performances on the way to helping his club win the NRL title in the full knowledge that he was joining Leinster."

Warriors Director of Rugby Dean Ryan believes Te'o will be an invaluable addition to his squad.

"Ben is a really exciting talent and has proved he is more than capable of transferring his skills from League to Union," he said.

"His experience and power in the centre will add further depth to our midfield and we're looking forward to him joining up with the side."

Te’o joined the Irish province before last season and, despite some rawness as he adjusted to a new code, has performed well in big games, offering an ability to get over the gainline.

The news comes as a blow to the Irish province who will now re-double their efforts to lure Robbie Henshaw from Connacht, while they also have Garry Ringrose in their squad.

However, it also shows how difficult the market is becoming for Irish provinces when recruiting and retaining their best players.

Earlier this month Te'o admitted that he was considering move away from Leinster despite enjoying his time in Ireland.

"I'm very happy here. I'm enjoying my time at a very, very good club that has taught me a lot," he said. "I'm still going through that process so no decisions have been made, I'm going through it with my manager and it's a big decision. So I'm weighing up a few things and should get sorted soon.

"You've got to figure out which game you want to play first and then you go from there. I know I've got a lot of options but I've just got to do what I think is going to be right for my career.

"I'd love to play international rugby. I'm not sure for who, but I'd love to play it. I want to test myself and I love to play in the biggest games, so that's something that will factor into my decision."

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