Jennings: Leinster could survive loss of O’Brien and Heaslip

Shane Jennings is confident Leinster would survive the loss of Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip while stressing the magnetic pull of the club will make it hard for either to leave.

Heaslip and O’Brien have been the subject of feverish speculation given their contracts are up for renewal this summer and they have been linked with interested suitors in the French Top 14.

Neither has bitten on the opportunity to discuss their futures when on media duties of late although they have stressed their allegiance for, and love of, a club where they have enjoyed such success.

“They know as well as everybody that no player is bigger than the club,” said Jennings.

“We will wait and see if any of those rumours that you hear come to fruition or if there is any truth behind them but they are very proud to be Leinster lads.

“They have done an awful lot for the club over the years and I think they want to be more successful [here] as well so I know the players, the coaches and the supporters want them to stay. If they move on, you move on and try to replace them and try to get better. Hopefully it won’t happen.”

Jennings knows better than most how difficult it can be to sever ties with the home province given he spent two years with Leicester Tigers but he spoke evocatively and humorously about his own experiences.

Though it was a decision based on professional necessity, it was one which gave rise to all sorts of emotions.

“I didn’t want to go. I was still crying in the car with my mom and she’s saying ‘you’ll never be the same again’. You can’t take away the fact that it’s not going to be emotional, leaving the club you wanted to play with for the rest of your life.

“It’s the place where you’ve grown up, your city, your family, your friends. It’s a professional decision and you’ve got to be man enough to make that. And whether it’s to develop as a player or for financial reasons, whatever, they’re tough decisions.”

For Leinster it is a case of wait and see as the negotiations continue between the players’ representatives and the IRFU who handle all central contracts. But Matt O’Connor reminded everyone that the club does still have a role to play.

“Like we have always said, the responsibility is on Leinster to create an environment where they want to stay. They have got to make the final decision but we have to make sure that the environment is such that they want to be a part of it.

“They are both world-class blokes. They demonstrated that throughout the November series and you would hope that correlates to Irish rugby understanding their value and how important they are to the game here.”


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