SHANE HORGAN is adamant that winning the Heineken Cup has not diluted his, or Leinster’s, appetite for success and that everyone in the provincial setup is desperate to replicate their Murrayfield milestone.
The man from Bellewstown in Meath has been togging out for Leinster for 11 years now and celebrated his 31st birthday two months ago, but he seems to have little intention of winding down his career just yet.
“Motivation is the easiest thing after winning a Heineken Cup. It’s simple. You get extremely greedy. It’s the case with most sports people. Sometimes there’s a perception that, with some sort of an achievement, you sit back and bask in that but I think it’s absolutely the opposite.
“You could see it right through the squad from the first day of pre-season – the hunger and the competition has just increased to a crazy level. And that’s from guys tasting that success.
“Whether you were in the 15 or the 22 or the squad last year, it went right the way through, even the new guys coming in as well. They have to be aware of the feeling within the squad and that desire grows stronger as a result of the success of last season, so it makes everything a lot easier.”
Horgan and Girvan Dempsey have already felt the effects of Father Time having slipped behind Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald in the pecking order for long stretches last season for club and country.
However, even those two Lions find themselves looking over their shoulders this season towards even fresher faces in the form of Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken and Andrew Conway.
“It’s something that has been happening more consistently in the past number of years,” said Horgan. “It’s a real bonus for the club and it’s a testament to the work that’s done in the academies. There’s a real conveyor belt that has been set up now, where you’re occasionally getting two or three really good guys coming through.
“From Rob Kearney’s generation and Luke’s right through, every year the competition is getting tougher and tougher and that’s spilling over into the forwards as well. Guys like Seanie O’Brien are coming through and establishing themselves, and Jason Harris-Wright, so the best thing that can happen is our academy players can see there’s a ladder there, a framework to work through, and come into the Leinster squad and get game-time, and that’s been the great thing about our squad over the past number of years.
“Opportunities have been there for younger guys. It acts as a real carrot for everyone in the academies. That can only be good for the club.”
Meanwhile, Buccaneers prop Conor Higgins, who has played for Ireland at U18 and U20 level, has been drafted into the Connacht squad after Brett Wilkinson suffered a fractured finger in training.
The Irish-qualified South African may now also miss Irish training next week, having been included in the squad to meet in Dublin on Monday.
“He won’t be able to make the trip to Edinburgh but we would hope he will not be out for long,” said Bradley.
Elsewhere, Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin has named a 23-man squad ahead of Saturday’s away clash with Ospreys.
The province’s newest signing, Tamaiti Horua, is named on the squad, as is young flanker TJ Anderson, who has battled his way back after injury.
In the backs Jonny Shiels, Cillian Willis and Clinton Schifcofske all make a return but Bryn Cunningham, Ryan Caldwell and David Pollack are out injured and Stephen Ferris, Paddy Wallace and Andrew Trimble are not available for selection under the Rugby Word Cup 2011 Player Management Programme.
ULSTER: Backs: T Nagusa, D Cave, N O’Connor, S Danielli, I Whitten, P Marshall, I Boss, I Humphreys, J Shiels, C Willis, C Schifcofske.
Forwards: N Brady, B Botha, B Young, E O’Donoghue, A Kyriacou, D Tuohy, R Diack, C Henry, W Faloon, T Anderson, A Horua, D Fitzpatrick.
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