Rugby’s loss will be business’s gain but Joe Schmidt believes the retirement of Eoin Reddan after a spectacularly successful playing career need not leave Ireland short-handed at scrum-half.
Reddan, 35, yesterday announced he would be quitting the game he has graced with distinction, most prominently with Wasps, Leinster and Ireland, to pursue a new career. Rather than accept a new contract with Leinster for next season, the Limerick man will be entering the world of aircraft leasing, leaving Schmidt to assess just how deep his resources go when it comes to cover for first-choice scrum-half Conor Murray.
Reddan will be on the bench for tomorrow’s final Test with South Africa in his 71st appearance for Ireland, having been promoted ahead of Connacht’s Kieran Marmion for his first taste of tour action.
A series-deciding Test against the Springboks is a long way removed from Reddan’s early career, when the former Old Crescent man departed his native Munster to try his luck in the West, only to return to Thomond Park and then move to Wasps, winning a Heineken Cup and English Premiership title before enjoying further glory in the blue of Leinster.
Replacing that sort of experience — Reddan won two more Heineken Cups at Leinster under Schmidt in addition to two PRO12 titles — will not be easy but the Ireland boss believes Marmion leads the way.
“I think Kieran is developing all the time and one of the things that he’s benefited from I think is having Eoin there.
“Eoin started as a 71-kilo scrum-half in Connacht, really, because he left Munster to get more game-time and more experience, so I think Kieran’s already a whole four or five kilos heavier than that, at least. So he’ll continue to develop.
“It wasn’t really until probably he went away to Wasps and really got recognised and continued to develop as a professional that he came back as the finished product.
“So we’ve got Kieran there working away, Luke McGrath has been going well, there’s John Cooney in behind Kieran in Connacht. Paul Marshall is a guy we had on standby to come here if we got short at scrum-half along with Luke McGrath and we’ve got a couple of younger guys coming through.
“Obviously, the 20s are going well and Nick McCarthy captained the 20s recently and is another guy coming through. Are they the finished product? Are they ready to step as replacements for Conor? They’re building their way toward that, I think.”
For long-standing provincial and Test team-mate Mike Ross, Reddan’s retirement marks the further passing of a golden era with Leinster following the recent retirements of the likes of Shane Jennings and Gordon D’Arcy.
“A bit sad about that,” Ross said. “I’m looking around the dressing room and a lot of my peers are disappearing. Darce retired last year, Jenno, now Redser. I said: ‘What are you doing to me?’ I thought there was a good chance he’d be around next year but he had a tremendous opportunity he couldn’t pass up, so I understand. It’s still a bit sad to see him leave.
“The opportunity he had was something that wasn’t going to come along again. Aircraft leasing is a bit of an odd thing to be getting interested in but Redser is always a good man to find an opportunity — especially at the side of a ruck.
“I think he’ll do tremendously well at it. He’s a very positive fella to have around the place. I’ll miss him next season but I’m sure we’ll stay in touch. Nice house down in Sandymount. I’m sure I’ll be popping over.”
Schmidt backed Reddan to be a success in his next career move though he believes the scrum-half could make an excellent coach were he to stay in rugby.
“Unfortunately, he’s probably going to be a success elsewhere. He is one of the guys who’s always studied well outside of and away from rugby. He’s done internships and things like that so he’s already set himself up to go into the world of business and I think that’s where he’s more likely to end up.
“I’ve no doubt that he will get an urge to coach a bit or to be involved to a degree. Whether that’s just with little Tom, when he’s old enough to get started playing rugby in a few years and start coaching his own son, we’ll wait and see but I think technically he’s such a good kicker of the ball, he’s such a nice passer of the ball that as a specialist coach for starters he’d have a lot to offer and his understanding of the game is really good as well.”
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