Rhys Ruddock keeps focus amid talk of Irish call

Rhys Ruddock, pictured, has played down his chances of featuring for Ireland in the last two Six Nations rounds, despite his return from injury with Leinster last Friday night.

The flanker was an integral part of Joe Schmidt’s side last November, playing 80 minutes against both South Africa and Australia, and claiming his first international try against the Springboks after being parachuted into the team at the last minute.

However, a fractured arm the following month curtailed his season until the weekend’s visit to Wales and Ruddock believes his form is far below where it would need to be to earn a recall to international camp.

“If the opportunity comes along, it would but be great, but I have enough to worry about,” he said yesterday. “I want to be playing as well if not better than I was before the injury and if I want that, then I have to have a big performance next weekend.”

Leinster face Scarlets in Wales next Saturday and forwards coach Leo Cullen expects to have available a significant number of the province’s Ireland players who came off the bench or played no part against England on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Cullen suggested that weekend reports linking Isa Nacewa with a return to the province as a player/coach next season were somewhat premature, even if contact between the pair has been regular since the former back’s departure.

Nacewa is currently mental skills coach with the Blues in New Zealand and, though it is two years since he played, Leinster are looking at various options to cover the lengthy absences of players and skills coach Richie Murphy during the 2015 World Cup.

“All it is is rumour,” said Cullen. “There has been a few conversations for sure, but we are trying to put plans in place based on the six games we have to play during the World Cup. He’s a guy who knows the place pretty well.

“With all these things there are so many pieces to the puzzle, in terms of planning and in terms of getting the sign off from the union in terms of a foreign guy, depending on where he came in, (be it) in a coaching or playing capacity. It’s miles off, as things stand at the moment.”

Nacewa’s lack of rugby would seem to be the main obstacle. Brad Thorn, famously, took a year out of his career whilst in his 20s, but it would seem to be asking a lot of a 32-year old to return to the elite club level after a span twice that long.

“I think he had a few bangs and bruises and was just keen to get his body right,” said Cullen of the decision to retire.

“He has been doing a load of training, got into CrossFit, which is taking over the nation. He’s kept himself in good shape.

“He’s been the kicking tee (carrier) for the Blues this season. He is in or around the rugby environment. If he was to come back in a potential role, he would be a massive help, whatever that would be.”

Whatever the outcome with Nacewa, Leinster have all but signed and sealed a contract extension with South African back Zane Kirchner.


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