Sport Rugby

Thursday 23 November 2017

Reddan: 'We would find a way if Sean and Jamie leave - but it might take time'

Leinster's Eoin Reddan
Leinster's Eoin Reddan
Brian O'Driscoll, Leinster
David Kelly

David Kelly

As the most tedious transfer saga since Gareth Bale was trying to lay low in Madrid wearing a metrosexual pink T-shirt and a dodgy cap limps towards the new year, there are signs that Leinster players are getting as hacked off as their supporters.

Asked his opinion on whether he wanted Jamie Heaslip to stay, prop Jack McGrath's reply hinted at the sense of fatigue that is tugging at the entire Irish rugby community.

"We won't talk about Jamie," he said. "That's none of my business."

It was said good-naturedly but, as with the always cheerful Eoin Reddan's jovial parting shot -- "Eh, lads, we've a tough match at the weekend!" -- it was a reminder that Heaslip's uncertain future remains to the forefront of Irish supporters' minds.

Regardless of whether one feels he should stay or go, the prevailing mood behind closed doors at the clubs reflects the similar concerns that distracted Leinster so much last year during the Johnny Sexton saga.

It is a sense of helplessness that they can effectively offer nothing tangible to the contract negotiations and also a grievance that the issue has been allowed to drag on as limply like a 'Fair City' plot.

PAYMASTERS

There's only so many times the loyalty card can be played by a player in these circumstances; were Heaslip dealing directly with Leinster as paymasters, then the equation would be simple.

Either they would pay him what he thinks is his market value or they would play that loyalty card and investigate whether the player would stay for less than that -- a simple choice between money and loyalty.

Having the IRFU as chief negotiators and signatories of his weekly pay packet complicates matters, as Sexton discovered this time last year when he was tugged between loyalty to his province and the seemingly diffident perception of his value by the Union.

Leinster can only express their opinion, like every other onlooker.

"Both Sean O'Brien and Jamie should definitely stay here," says assistant coach Jono Gibbes, who has already made his decision to join Clermont at the end of this season.

"The environment they have got here is good for them. The system that they have got with central contracting and the player programme is good for them. The national team benefit from having those guys there to call on.

"Being a rugby player in Ireland is a good environment for them. Look, it is never as black and white as it seems... the factors that have to be counted in, lifestyle and money and experiences I guess. For me, I can kind of see the benefits of staying here."

Ultimately, loyalty lost out to money in the Sexton example. Leinster were left with no option but to try to survive. Can they do so again?

"The timing of that question is loaded, obviously," says Reddan.

"The reality is, if you look at past examples with Johnny going, you know externally how big a deal it was for Irish rugby.

"If you're an organisation that is adaptable and really, really wants to win -- I mean off the pitch and on the pitch -- then you have to find a way to move on.

"Is it hard to move on with someone like Johnny going? Yeah. And would it be hard if Seanie or Jamie moved on? Of course, it would be hard.

"Do I think with the kind of people who are in this organisation would we find a way? I think we would have to. I don't know how long it would take.

"The biggest thing is that they're good friends and you would miss them being around the place.

"They are also rugby players and it would set us back. Definitely. But you can't really say, 'oh, if they go we're gone'. You can't have that attitude as another player. Nevertheless, you really, really hope they sort it out. You hope they stay.

"You hope we can build and move in the direction we are going. But, if it doesn't happen, you've got to adjust and adapt to the situation."

Gibbes avers.

"There have been some really good players who have had to finish up," he says, quoting Malcolm O'Kelly as an early example in his coaching tenure.

"That is the continuing challenge. The academy has always provided some good players coming through and there are guys getting the exposure and they can step up."

Reddan feels that Leinster's conveyor belt of back-row talent can aid that sense of re-adjustment.

"He is an exceptional player but I don't think it will be one guy. We will have to slightly adjust what we do a little bit in certain things."

But then, just as Reddan seems to define an answer, he hesitates. "I don't know the answer," he sighs.

As far as Reddan and Leinster are concerned, you feel that the sooner they found out if such a period of adjustment is required, the better prepared they may be to face that eventuality.

Irish Independent

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