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London Irish shed more light on the sudden exit of 'good man' Rona

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

London Irish boss Declan Kidney has shed more light on last week’s sudden departure of Curtis Rona, the former Wallabies midfielder who had been with the Gallagher Premiership club since its 2019/20 return to the top flight in England. The director of rugby was vague in his answers about the 30-year-old centre when he hosted a media briefing last Wednesday morning and was asked about reports in Australia that Rona had gone AWOL.

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That session took place at 10:45am, leaving the Rona situation up in the air, and it was 4pm that afternoon when clarity emerged with London Irish confirming that the player had left the club with immediate effect to pursue a playing opportunity in Japan.

This exit was quite an unexpected development as Rona had started the new season wearing the No13 jersey in the first three Irish matches of their Premiership camapign before being excluded for the round four home win over Bath on October 1.

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In last week’s club statement, Rona said: “Thank you to the supporters and everyone at London Irish for making me feel so welcome at the club from the first day that I arrived. I want to thank the players, staff and coaches for everything that they have done for me, and I wish London Irish nothing but the best for the future.”

A week on from that swift departure, Kidney was asked by RugbyPass for his reflection on what has taken place. “Look lads, we talk every week (with the media) but then sometimes things are ongoing. So even when we were talking the last time there were things ongoing and they could have gone one way or the other.

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“It’s not really appropriate to talk about an individual circumstance then but once we knew a couple of hours later, that is why we worked to give you a heads-up (that Rona was leaving) because you were good enough to come on the call in the morning.

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“That is the great thing and the frustrating thing and the challenge in this business, it does happen so fast. You never know what is going to come across your desk on any given day, so you have to be prepared. Abnormal is nearly normal now because there is always something happening.”

How will Rona, a player who played 77 times for London Irish, be remembered by Kidney? “Well, Curtis helped us to get to where we were. He is a good man. Like, we have a history of people coming to this club and leaving over nearly 125 years. Curtis added a lot and we wish him and his family well.”

Asked why Rona is heading to Japan when Australian reports suggested he was a Super Rugby Pacific or NRL target, Kidney added: “Well, I probably wouldn’t go into that. I’ll stay away from that if that is alright. I’m not sure.”

The immediate-effect departure of Rona hasn’t left a gaping hole in the London Irish midfield. England pick Will Joseph has stepped in off the wing to wear the No13 shirt in the matches versus Bath and Sale and he isn’t the only contender for that role. “We have Will Joseph, we have Luca Morisi, who is in the Italian squad and we have Lucio Cinti, who is in the Argentinian squads,” explained Kidney.

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“They all play 13 for their country so we are well stocked there. As the season goes on you’re never too sure whether you are going to get a bang or a knock. I know the Worcester and the Wasps lads are somewhat available for recruitment. The easy thing might be to go out and buy somebody but maybe you are better off with something in the back pocket until you are actually stuck in a position.”

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