Kiss fearful of life after Lealiifano

Les Kiss knows only too well that Ulster face a near impossible task in replacing Christian Lealiifano when the Australian’s loan spell in Belfast comes to an end.

Kiss fearful of life after Lealiifano

The 30-year returns to the Brumbies next month and Ulster are light on alternatives.

Paddy Jackson remains unavailable due to legal issues and that leaves the inexperienced pair of Johnny McPhillips and Brett Heron as the only other candidates for the fly-half role.

Sourcing Lealiifano was a coup in itself at the time — the need to repeat that trick is proving to be a monumental challenge for Kiss and Bryn Cunningham, his team manager.

“I’ve put the boots back on,” joked Kiss.

“Bryn and I sat down and tried to find the right fit for us and it’s a difficult market to find anyone, to tell the truth, in terms of the right fit we’re after and that fits a budget. We were pretty lucky to get Christian but all the stars aligned.

“It was ideal for him and it was ideal for us and it’s worked wonderfully.

“He’s had a positive impact internally, not only with the team, but with the other 10s and the options we have around that, so that’s been fantastic.”

Kiss has looked internally within Ireland and abroad but neither route is straightforward.

Both Leinster and Munster are relatively well-stocked with out-halves but there is a need for such depth in the modern game.

Kiss made that very point yesterday when pointing out the casualty rate Ulster are currently experiencing at centre where they boast so many options — when fit.

And as for the foreign route?

“It’s a combination of things. There’s really nothing out there and if there’s someone maybe available he’s huge (wages).

“We don’t have five or six hundred thousand, that’s just the truth, and even if it’s short-term you’re still paying pro rata at that rate.”

The IRFU would also have to be considered with any signing, whether short-term or long, but Kiss believes that the union would be amenable to it given the “unique” circumstances in the event that the province was able to attract someone.

Lots of questions then but with very few answers.

The same applies with Jared Payne, who is still struggling to return to full health after the headaches which curtailed his tour of New Zealand with the British and Irish Lions during the summer.

Kiss was understandably reticent to divulge details given it is a medical issue, but he did confirm that the symptoms have eased gradually over time — though they have ebbed and flowed before — and that he is closing in on a clean bill of health and a return to the paddock.

“We are optimistic it will be sooner rather than later,” said Kiss.

“You hate to put timelines around this and I know people are always looking for a timeline. Something like this, I don’t think that’s appropriate. We take this week by week but each week are seeing more progress.”

Payne’s affliction has coincided with his last year under central contract with the IRFU, but Kiss expressed confidence that all that would be sorted out once the medical issues are behind him.

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