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French target Leinster clubs

On the week of Ireland's Six Nations showdown with Grand Slam champions France, Leinster face a battle to hold on to their up-and-coming stars as French clubs target their successful Academy operation.

"We know that top French and English clubs are sending people over to look at our Academy," said Des Lamont, chairman of Leinster's provincial team management committee.

"Given the quality of players it has been producing, there is obviously interest in how the operation has been so successful, and, of course, they are also looking at potential recruits."

Academy graduates such as Sean O'Brien, Fergus McFadden, Eoin O'Malley, Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock have been hugely impressive in Leinster's march to the Heineken Cup quarter-finals.

And former prop Reggie Corrigan, who works with the Academy as scrum coach, said it was inevitable that the province's Academy operation would attract overseas interest.

"The Academy system in Leinster is streets ahead of most and the proof is in the quality of players it is producing and the province's success at underage levels," said Corrigan. "It doesn't surprise me that the French and English are taking a close look at it and while there is the risk of Leinster losing players before they are brought through, it is also testament to the good work that is being done there, and a lot of credit must go to (Academy manager) Colin McEntee."

Academy players are expected to feature in Leinster's side to take on Aironi in their Magners League clash at the RDS tomorrow evening, while Brian O'Driscoll, Jonathan Sexton and the other senior stars prepare for their Six Nations showdown with France.

There was welcome news for Ireland coach Declan Kidney yesterday when No 8 Jamie Heaslip (ankle) and outside back Andrew Trimble (hand) came through training yesterday.

Kidney names his team to take on France today and is expected to stick closely to the side that came away from Rome with a nervy 13-11 victory over Italy.

If Heaslip is brought back in, Denis Leamy could be the one to miss out with Sean O'Brien switching to blindside flanker.

France have made one change to the side that defeated Scotland 34-21 with Clemont Poitrenaud coming in at full-back and Damien Traille switching to the centre.

IRELAND (possible) -- L Fitzgerald; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll (capt), G D'Arcy, K Earls; J Sexton, T O'Leary; C Healy, R Best, M Ross; D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell; S O'Brien, D Wallace, J Heaslip.

Irish Independent