Two weeks on from the long-awaited arrival of Kane Douglas, Leinster coach Matt O’Connor is set to welcome another southern hemisphere recruit into his squad.
A deal for New Zealand-born rugby league star Ben Te’o was agreed back on August 12, but because the South Sydney Rabbitohs’ season was extended until last Sunday’s NRL Grand Final success over Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, his Leinster debut has been delayed.
The addition of the imposing Te’o is a timely boost to a side that is struggling with injuries and form, and even though the leap to rugby union is a massive one, Leinster team manager Guy Easterby is confident the 27-year-old can adapt quickly.
“Obviously, once he arrives we’ve only got three games before we have a break of a couple of weeks anyway, so it’s about integrating him as soon as possible,” said Easterby.
“He has got a union background, albeit 10 or 11 years ago, so hopefully it’s not going to be something totally alien to him and he’ll be able to make the transition as quickly as possible. It will be great to have another number on board.”
It may come as a surprise to find that, despite mainly lining out in the second row for the Rabbitohs, Te’o is being earmarked for the No 13 position, which has been a major source of contention since Brian O’Driscoll’s retirement.
However, Easterby feels that despite the differences between the games, this won’t be an issue, and is excited about the new dimension that Te’o will bring to Leinster’s play.
“Ben plays second row in league, but it’s completely different and they kind of split it between second-row and centre in the way they play out in the field.
“He’s very much a ball carrier in league, but he’s also a ball player too, you know. He has a good passing game which makes him a genuine option in the centre for us.”
It will still be a steep learning curve for the Auckland native, though, and Easterby didn’t rule out the possibility of O’Driscoll offering a guiding hand to the new signing at some point.
“That’s something we’re going to look at further down the line,” he said.
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