Leo Cullen has left the door open for Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell to join Leinster, on a temporary basis at least, following the news of Kurt McQuilkin’s departure.
Former England assistant coach Farrell spent four months with Munster in a temporary adviser role earlier this year and could be set for a repeat performance.
McQuilkin is returning to New Zealand for personal reasons, but will remain in situ until the beginning of the PRO12 season when Leinster hope to have a replacement or, at the very least, a restructuring of existing coaching responsibilities.
Cullen admitted the club are already in discussion with potential replacements, and did not rule out the possibility of Farrell joining.
“Yeah, potentially, yeah,” he said, when asked specifically about bringing the Englishman on board.
“We are having conversations at the moment, there are all sorts of permutations, we will have a clearer picture by the end of the month.
“Kurt is definitely going to leave a hole. When people move on and Kurt has had to leave for family reasons, it is a chance for us to get somebody new into the group get different ideas and challenge the group in a different way.
“I have been in constant communication with Kurt over the last few weeks our thoughts are with what’s the right thing for Kurt to do. He has agonised over the decision.
“It is a difficult time for him so we thank him for the work he has put in. He is going to be a big loss for us in terms of planning ahead. I have had some conversations with people over the last few weeks because I had an inkling...”
McQuilkin’s departure is a blow for Leinster’s pre-season plans, as are the injuries that required almost three-quarters of an A4 sheet to outline at yesterday’s media briefing in Tallaght Stadium.
The key takeaways from the list are that Johnny Sexton is on course for a return to action in the ‘early rounds of the Guinness Pro12’, Cian Healy ‘is looking good’ and ‘close to a return’ having returned to scrummaging in training, skipper Isa Nacewa is ‘very close’ to a return, while summer signing Robbie Henshaw is still on target to return before European action kicks off.
Richardt Strauss will see a consultant regarding a knee issue this week, but there was no date given for Sean O’Brien’s potential return from a hamstring tear.
“I’m not that worried,” Cullen said of the back-row forward’s fate. “There was some uncertainty at the start over the surgery but he has been back to the surgeon and it is really positive. He is getting closer and he is on a really positive course. We are are getting to ‘weeks’.”
The number of weeks is unknown, however, and he will certainly be one of the host of stars unavailable to Cullen for the season opener.
However, it’s still a luxurious situation the head coach finds himself in compared to last season, when he was thrown in at the deepest of deep ends, as a rookie head coach with a whole team of front line players to plan without.
“Definitely, yeah, during the World Cup period last year all this time of the season, the pre-season, we were minus 23 players,” he said.
“I think 16 went with Ireland, Zane [Kirchner] went to South Africa and three other guys got added. That’s 20 players that went to the World Cup. That’s hugely disruptive.
“Everyone came back, you are dealing with the disappointments, trying to get guys up to speed and we’re straight into two big European games and you lose the two of them. It completely derails our European campaign. It’s very disappointing, it was a steep learning curve for me.”
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