Friday 15 December 2017

Ryan mulls shock Leinster switch as Thorn 'lifts squad'

Hugh Farrelly

LEINSTER are close to confirming Brad Thorn as a short-term signing, but Donnacha Ryan has emerged as potential long-term solution to their second-row problem.

With Leo Cullen out of action due to an Achilles problem and Steven Sykes, who was signed on a three-year deal, returning to South Africa, emulating Ed O'Donoghue's early departure at the start of the season, second-row has become a major issue for the province.

Ryan (28) has been starting for Munster this season but has been unable to dislodge Donncha O'Callaghan from the Ireland team and, with Paul O'Connell and O'Callaghan both recently signing contract extensions, sources say the Nenagh man is interested in switching provinces.


With speculation that Munster stalwart Mick O'Driscoll will retire at the end of the season and that Billy Holland's contract may be not be renewed, it would leave Munster short on second-row cover beyond Ian Nagle.

Ryan has been in tremendous form this season and would be a significant capture for Leinster, particularly as their captain Cullen is now 34.

Devin Toner, Damien Browne and the promising Mark Flanagan are three specialist locks available, while flanker Kevin McLaughlin has filled in there when required, but Leinster desperately need quality and experience in the position, and Ryan fits the bill.

In the short term, New Zealand World Cup winner Thorn is the target and Leinster are hopeful of securing his switch from Japan.

Assistant coach Richie Murphy stated yesterday: "We are close to finalising a deal, things are looking good."

And McLaughlin is excited by the prospect of having a player of Thorn's ability in the squad.

"It's really exciting. Obviously we've a bit of a crisis at second-row this season, especially with Leo gone to surgery. I've had to go in there a few times, which I'm more than happy to do," he said.

"But to get a specialist second-row in who has just won the World Cup, who has done everything there really is to do in rugby, is just a huge lift for the squad."

Meanwhile, with Tomas O'Leary still in negotiations with Top 14 clubs regarding a move to France, Munster are poised to re-sign scrum-half Duncan Williams for two more years.

While a proposed switch to Perpignan has fallen through, O'Leary is said to have offers on the table from Stade Francais and Racing Metro, although he could still opt to remain in his native province.

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