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Munster and IRFU circling England centres

By Neil Fissler
Leicester Tigers players celebrate during the Investec Champions Cup match between Leicester Tigers and Leinster Rugby at Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium on January 20, 2024 in Leicester, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

The IRFU and Munster are showing a keen interest in a number of former England centres and as they look to plug a potential gap in their depth chart.

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Munster have drawn up a wish list to replace Antoine Frisch, who is firmly in the sights of big-spending Toulon after pledging his international allegiance to France.

Frisch is still under contract to the Irish giants for next season, but they have been working through a list of Ireland-qualified players who are playing in the Premiership as they seek to find a replacement.

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They are keen on Leicester Tigers’ ex-Ireland U20 centre Dan Kelly, the Manchester-born midfielder who qualifies via his Irish-born grandparents and was capped by England against Canada in 2021.

Kelly, who was part of the Sale Sharks academy but wasn’t offered professional terms when he turned 18, joined the Tigers after impressing for Loughborough Students.

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As a youngster, he dabbled in Rugby League with Wigan but moved to Loughborough to study for a degree in marketing and management after his dreams of a professional career seemed to have been dashed.

He hasn’t looked back since being given a second chance by former Ireland legend Geordan Murphy, who spent 23 years at Welford Road before leaving in December 2020.

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The Tigers are believed to be seeking a fee to release Kelly from his contract, which he signed only in January 2023 after being called up by former Tigers boss Steve Borthwick into his Six Nations squad.

Meanwhile, Sydney-born Piers O’Conor, the 28-year-old who has spent six years at Bristol Bears but represented Ireland at U19s level in 2013 and England U20s two years later, is another name on the list.

O’Conor, who also qualifies for Australia and New Zealand, is a former teammate of Frisch’s at Ashton Gate, where he has played over 130 games.

He hasn’t played, however, since the Bears suffered a Champions Cup defeat in Connacht in January.

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Diarmid 10 hours ago
Players and referees must cut out worrying trend in rugby – Andy Goode

The guy had just beasted himself in a scrum and the blood hadn't yet returned to his head when he was pushed into a team mate. He took his weight off his left foot precisely at the moment he was shoved and dropped to the floor when seemingly trying to avoid stepping on Hyron Andrews’ foot. I don't think he was trying to milk a penalty, I think he was knackered but still switched on enough to avoid planting 120kgs on the dorsum of his second row’s foot. To effectively “police” such incidents with a (noble) view to eradicating play acting in rugby, yet more video would need to be reviewed in real time, which is not in the interest of the game as a sporting spectacle. I would far rather see Farrell penalised for interfering with the refereeing of the game. Perhaps he was right to be frustrated, he was much closer to the action than the only camera angle I've seen, however his vocal objection to Rodd’s falling over doesn't legitimately fall into the captain's role as the mouthpiece of his team - he should have kept his frustration to himself, that's one of the pillars of rugby union. I appreciate that he was within his rights to communicate with the referee as captain but he didn't do this, he moaned and attempted to sway the decision by directing his complaint to the player rather than the ref. Rugby needs to look closely at the message it wants to send to young players and amateur grassroots rugby. The best way to do this would be to apply the laws as they are written and edit them where the written laws no longer apply. If this means deleting laws such as ‘the put in to the scrum must be straight”, so be it. Likewise, if it is no longer necessary to respect the referee’s decision without questioning it or pre-emptively attempting to sway it (including by diving or by shouting and gesticulating) then this behaviour should be embraced (and commercialised). Otherwise any reference to respecting the referee should be deleted from the laws. You have to start somewhere to maintain the values of rugby and the best place to start would be giving a penalty and a warning against the offending player, followed by a yellow card the next time. People like Farrell would rapidly learn to keep quiet and let their skills do the talking.

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