Leinster are optimistic James Lowe will be available for their first fixture since the pandemic and shutdown when they face Munster next month.
The Kiwi wing returned home to New Zealand recently for personal reasons but the province will wrap up a three-week training bloc this Friday and take a fortnight’s break before resuming on July 27, four weeks before the interpro at the Aviva Stadium.
“Hopefully he will come back and be able to join the group with all the steps and precautions that he has to take and then make sure he gets match fit,” said assistant coach Felipe Contepomi.
“We will have to assess him when he comes back. Hopefully he will be with us training in the next bloc.”
Contepomi spoke about players who were “unable to pass the ball” when they returned from lockdown to training in UCD last month but muscle memory duly kicked in and they have improved exponentially since. There are other reasons for cheer besides.
Unbeaten through their 20 fixtures before the season was put on hold, the province announced 28 contracts this month. That included promotions for five academy players while the veteran pair of Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden have extended deals through to the season’s end.
It’s no wonder Contepomi describes selection issues as one of those nice headaches and yet you could argue that there is scope for some new blood at a club that, like Liverpool, did not bring in any proven talent last summer.
The backline in particular.
Joe Tomane is to join Dragons, Barry Daly is retiring, and McFadden and Kearney will accompany them through departures.
With Lowe becoming Ireland-qualified in the coming months there is in theory room for one or maybe even two non-Irish qualified (NIQ) players.
Contepomi seems comfortable with what they have and with what the system is bringing through. Not even the leftfield mention of a certain Manu Tuilagi, available for anyone with wagon loads of money to spare, could change his view that Leinster’s stocks are being well supplied from within.
“I’m not sure we have the money to buy Manu Tuilagi, you know? It’s not just bringing in anyone. We have to bring in the right person. Maybe we didn’t find him yet. I am really happy with the squad. Why do you want to look for something else when we have something here?
“One of the questions was about headache for selection. You want to bring me a migraine now by bringing in another guy and having even more trouble for selection. If we have good enough people here and we are comfortable with it, why would we look for someone else on the outside?
“I understand maybe other clubs or provinces have got big names, but do we need them? I don’t know. Maybe time will tell.”
Leinster’s ability to refresh the playing pool has proven beneficial to their nearest and dearest rivals as well.
Hawaiian prop Roman Salanoa joined that exodus when he signed for Munster after three years learning his trade in Dublin.
Contepomi confirmed the fact that Leinster wanted him to stay put but accepted the 22-year-old’s decision.
“We are developing guys now with the squad we have and it is about trying to develop young players and bring them up to speed. Roman made his decision and we can’t judge him. It is just a personal decision. He knows the reasons why.
“It is a good environment for them to develop here and become the best they can be. Maybe he didn’t see that that was his case in Leinster but I like to think we are creating a good environment for people to thrive and get to their best.
“Hopefully there will be other guys in line who will take his place.”