Saturday 18 November 2017

Easterby hails returning Irish stars

Guy Easterby has hailed the influence of Fergus McFadden and the other Leinster players who returned to provincial duty after just missing out on World Cup selection
Guy Easterby has hailed the influence of Fergus McFadden and the other Leinster players who returned to provincial duty after just missing out on World Cup selection

Tom Rooney

Team manager Guy Easterby has praised the professionalism of the Leinster players who narrowly missed out on World Cup selection.

The province has supplied 16 players to Joe Schmidt's Ireland squad, and the figure could have been even higher were it not for injury.

Those that missed out can point to the remarkably stiff competition for places.

Seven players were released back to Leinster after training with Ireland during the summer.

Michael Bent, Isaac Boss, Noel Reid, Jack Conan and Fergus McFadden came extremely close to making the final 31-man panel, while Marty Moore, having recovered from shoulder surgery, was cruelly taken out of the running by a foot injury.

Easterby claims that all seven players have hugely added to the Leinster collective since their return.

Only the injured Gordon D'Arcy is yet to feature in the Blues' three Pro12 games to date.

The remaining six featured in the recent bonus-point victory over the Dragons at the RDS, as did Rhys Ruddock who, if not for his own injury woes, would surely have been preparing to face France on Sunday.

Former Ireland scrum-half Easterby says that the availability of such quality players has been invaluable during the World Cup period.

"You have the other players who just missed out on selection or players who were pushing hard to get into that group," he said. "I have to say, the ones who have come back here have been hugely positive within our environment.

"Marty had an injury, which has been another level of disappointment for him, but he has been really focused, while Fergus McFadden was very unlucky not be selected in a hugely competitive area.

"For someone like him to be back in here with the attitude that he's had, it makes you feel very humble.

"Jack Conan, the same - he's younger, but got very close to getting into the squad.

"Noel Reid was in the squad as well, but all seven of the guys have knuckled down here and helped the less experienced players along, and done the job required of them to a really high level to make sure we're successful in this period."

The 44-year-old is delighted to see so many of the Blues wearing green as Ireland go in search of World Cup glory and recognises their selection as a reflection of Leinster's strength.

"At the end of the day, every single player's ambition is to play at the highest level, and to have 16 of our lads involved in the national squad is fantastic.

"Because you know that they've been working so hard and that's the ultimate they can reach.

"Right across the board, for the people who made it and the people who didn't, we couldn't be prouder of them."

Along with the Leinster contingent, Easterby has an additional personal interest in Ireland's World Cup fortunes - his brother, Simon, is the forwards coach in Schmidt's management team.

He's certain Ireland have already addressed the perceived shortcomings that manifested themselves during their win over Italy, and will be ready for France.

"They know it's not the best performance they've had, and that'll be a good sort of reminder of the challenges ahead," he said.

"Look, they won the game, got no injuries and they're into the knockout stages."

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