You can imagine Leinster coach Leo Cullen had better things to do in the lead-up to Friday night’s Guinness PRO14 semi-final against Munster than deal with the issue of bringing in an English Championship tighthead as cover for the busy months ahead. 

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However, that was what he had to do given the schedule his team has with the business end of the 2019/20 league and Champions Cup campaigns being quickly followed by the October start of the new 2020/21 PRO14, a time in the year when his Ireland players will be preparing for their hectic Test schedule.  

It’s odd to think Leinster could ever be short in any sector of their team given the conveyor belt of talent their academy produces year after year. But it has now emerged that Cullen was blindsided regarding the situation with young tightheads backing up the roster behind Tadhg Furlong, Andrew Porter and Michael Bent.    

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RugbyPass brings you Game Day, the behind the scenes documentary on the 2018 Guinness PRO14 final between Leinster and Scarlets in Dublin

Apparently, he had been given a verbal indication during the lockdown by Roman Salanoa, a youngster who arrived in Ireland a few years ago from Hawaii where he played American football, that he would be staying on at the club.

The information then fed into Leinster agreeing to allow another youngster, Jack Aungier, move to Connacht. However, after that deal for Aungier was signed, it emerged that Salanoa hadn’t put pen to paper on his Leinster contract and was instead joining Munster. That left Cullen this week having to agree on a short-term deal with Ciaran Parker, the Jersey Reds tighthead who had been at Munster until last May.

The issue came up in Cullen’s eve-of-match media conference and he admitted he wasn’t happy that Munster had managed to secure the services of Salanoa from under their nose. Their paths won’t cross on Friday night at the Aviva as Salanoa is injured and still waiting to make his Munster debut, but the manner of the prop’s summer exit has rankled ahead of the PRO14 semi-final.   

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“He told me he was staying. I told him I had to deal with another player [Aungier],” Cullen said, explaining his version on how Salanoa exited Leinster for Munster. “That’s how it unfolded. I basically took him at his word but he hadn’t actually signed the contract. I don’t know what sort of pressure he was under in the background (from the IRFU), but he left us compromised.

“I was upfront with him from day one, so he knew. If players want to go that is completely their own business. I’m not going to tell them what is best for their careers, they can decide that for themselves.”

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