The Mole isn’t sure when this article was published; he’s only catching up on it now. 

Brigadier General Toland makes the point that there are a number of good players contracted to Leinster who aren’t going to be in their match-day squad for their first Heineken Cup match against Montpellier. And apparently they should be playing for Connacht.

Confessing to some confusion over this argument comes easily to the Mole in this instance. He’s pretty sure he’s in good company.

Toland’s article is similar to so many of those that are written with Connacht’s best interests in mind. It doesn’t really stand up to critical analysis.

Yes these players [Hagan, Carr, Cronin] were important for Leinster’s negotiation of early Pro 12 matches during the RWC but now Carr could be back in Connacht as too Hagan and possibly Cronin, along with Annett and many more.”

That’s essentially an irrational viewpoint, or at least one that disregards a hell of a lot of assumptions that fuel capitalism. Hagan, Carr and Cronin used to be contracted to play for Connacht. They fulfilled those contracts, and then were signed to play rugby for Leinster. Why should they play for Connacht now? This part is a bit muddy.

Leinster are competing [albeit indirectly at this stage] against Connacht for the Heineken Cup, and competing against them directly for the Pro 12? Why should they ‘loan’ them players? That’s a fairly relevant question, before we get any further.

Secondly, part of the article concerns itself with Leinster starlet Andrew Conway, who apparently has been badly served because he doesn’t have 36 caps for Australia.

“Why then is Conway playing in Stradbrook miles away from an international cap?” 

Good question. Maybe it’s because he has been injured for the last two months.

Conway was getting starts as an 18-year old under Cheika and scoring tries as a 19-year old last season under Schmidt. His season ended in February last year with an ankle injury that required surgery in order for him to make it back in time for the Junior World Cup, and it’s another ankle injury that has precluded any involvement in Leinster’s 2011-12 season to date.

The idea that Leinster should let one of their most highly rated young players go to play for Connacht – when he’s injured, no less! – is pretty f*cking bonkers, it has to be said.

“The solution is an immediate change in the culture which exists between the provinces that can, not just allow or facilitate temporary loans/transfers of players, but more importantly encourage the players themselves to want to play at the highest level while remaining in Ireland.”

That’s an entirely unrealistic idea. Let’s run through some examples. Let’s take, for example, Leinster. At the beginning of this season, Leinster had no fewer than four outhalves – Sexton, Madigan, Berquist and McKinley. Under Oberstleutnant Toland, Madigan is shipped off to Connacht to be the best he can be. Unfortunately, Berquist then suffers a catastrophic leg injury that will keep him out for a long period, and the incredibly unlucky Ian McKinley is forced to retire from the game.

Do Leinster get Madigan back from Connacht? Are they then accused of ‘cherry-picking’ the best Connacht players, as they were when Carr, Cronin and Hagan [two of whom are born-and-bred Leinstermen and graduates of the Leinster Academy, the other from Limerick] moved from Connacht to Leinster when their contracts were up?

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3 thoughts on “

  1. This is a tasty one! In fairness to Toland, I think he is being provocative more than making cast iron policy suggestions. I see merit and flaws in both what he and you are getting at though.

    Bottom line, the other provinces want to see connacht being as weak as possible and will manipulate the playing field, which is already uphill. That ain’t right in my book. Although on the negative side, suspending the rules of capitalism seems not to have worked brilliantly on the old banking guarantee does it?!

    I take your points and I know there is only one sure way to make something happen – do it yourself. Connacht have to improve their development of players who are loyal to connacht -grassroots stuff and it appears that is happening down the ranks. There is no point waiting for a cavalry that is never likely to come and you wouldn’t want them to forever be a composite b team from leinster, ulster and munster anyway. That’s not sustainable either. It’s hard to get there when they got the rug pulled from under them last year though. Cronin I understand, hagan I think I understand. Time will tell on the others, but for now it don’t look awesome.

    As for younger players, its a legitimate concern that they will need to bridge a tough gap to get to play at the top end. Paul o’connell talked a bit about that during the week too. Comparing conway to o’Connor is perhaps exaggerating to prove a point somewhat, but I don’t really see where leinster put the next good second row/back rower, full back who comes through their books over the next 2 to 4 years. He is hoping for injuries you’d think.

    Would a draft system akin to Aussie rules be an idea? That way you fill the positions you need addressed with the best young talent. I dunno, I don’t have absolute answers and know when you futer with an ecosystem you can really f**k it up, ditto the banking system and I guess ditto Irish rugby. Its not that big a problem for Irish rugby I suppose – where to put good players!

    • The Connacht situation doesn’t have a particularly easy solution – but then again it’s not an enormous problem. The province is sparsely populated and has never been traditionally strong in rugby terms.

      In comparison, Leinster, Munster and Ulster all have extremely significant playing and administrative histories, and Connacht has always been the runt of the litter.

      The idea that the IRFU ‘should do more’ for Connacht is widespread but wooly. Few people know the extent of how much money the IRFU invest in Connacht, and how it compares to the money they invest in the other three provinces.

      One thing that should be obvious to anybody who thinks beyond the first statement [‘the IRFU should do more for Connacht’] is that the IRFU isn’t flush with cash. They have a stadium to pay off and the ticketing schedule their repayments were based on was torpedoed last November when enormous numbers of fans decided [correctly] that Autumn International tickets were waaaay too expensive.

      If more money is to go to Connacht, it has to come from somewhere else.

      • Connacht offers a great opportunity for younger players to get regular competitive rugby and establish themselves. I think that Eoin Griffin, Tiernan O’Halloran, O’Donohue etc will get much more out of this season than many of the leinster fringe players who will be restricted to gametime only when the first teamers are injured or on international duty. With connacht in the h cup they will face some quality opposition in the coming months. Whilst I can’t see a transfer/loan system working, with the surplus of leinster talent it would be great to see some more players make the gamble out west-if only for one or two seasons. Elwood is a good coach and with muldoon, duffy and o’connor etc. there are a core of dedicated quality players who have a lot to give. Whilst I don’t know much about the budgeting scenario with the provinces, it does seem that the irfu discriminate against connacht- I know that up until recently, connacht players could only get 12 month contracts which limits your recruitment of players (that and the galway weather)

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