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Foreign Players beneficial to Irish Rugby
2 February 2004, 2:24 pm
In the week of Christian Cullen s eagerly anticipated debut for Munster set for next Friday in Musgrave Park the thorny subject of overseas or foreign players was raised again in Ireland on Sunday
In the week of Christian Cullen s eagerly anticipated debut for Munster set for next Friday in Musgrave Park the thorny subject of overseas or foreign players was raised again in Ireland on Sunday by former international, Conor O Shea, in his regular column.

It was interesting for several reasons but the most interesting being the assertion by O Shea that the influx of these foreign players, who have taken a pivotal role in our national provincial set as result driven coaches take, the short term view ahead of the long term benefit. Now its not that long ago that when people talked of O Shea s club that it was referred to as London South Africa rather than London Irish such was the clutter of players from that country on the books of a club whose name at least suggests a place where Irish people living in London might engage in rugby.

No doubt the reason for the inclusion of so many foreigners in the first team squad will be put down to Commercialism and the need to survive at the highest level and so, therefore, in this case, the short term view ahead of the long term benefit. is perfectly acceptable. O Shea then went to wonder how many full-backs are we going to see ahead of Christian Cullen in the coming years.

And while eagerly awaiting the debut of the most famous full-back in All Black history, O Shea wondered, where will the next Irish full-back come from. Well that s an easy one, if one is to go on current form. He ll come from Munster and his name is Shaun Payne.

But going back to the kernel of O Shea s point which is that the arrival of Cullen hinders the development of that province s full-backs, can he or indeed anyone else tell us the exact name of the person who is losing out?.

Twenty three year old, Jeremy Staunton is the first name that springs to mind but in fairness to the Garryowen man despite a long tenure in the no 15 jersey he has failed to impose himself. After that there is no-one who readily springs to mind other than Payne who is the wrong side of 30 to offer anything in the long-term. However in the short term it cannot be denied that he is as sound defensively as Girvan Dempsey and offers much, much more as an attacking 15.

No, he won t be around at the next World Cup but then again, all things being equal, neither should Dempsey. There must be an argument for having a world class player such as Cullen in your squad to help develop young talent while helping to maintain the success of the squad so that the young talent can be induced to perhaps join the squad. And if a youngster comes into the squad he might be more encouraged to stay if he sees a 28 year old in possession rather than say another 21 year old.

O Shea's point about foreign players curbing development is not borne out in the Munster case. One of the most influential characters to arrive in Ireland to wear the Red was John Langford. Now did he hinder or help the development of the two locks who played for Ireland on Sunday, namely Paul O Connell and Donncha O Callaghan?.

Jim Williams arrived three years ago and Munster continue to thrive in the department where Williams is Shop Steward. Alan Quinlan, David Wallace, Denis Leamy and Stephen Keogh will all attest to the influence of the charismatic Williams and if they are not better players because of his presence then you'll have to convince them.

Next friday Musgrave Park will be full, the extra revenue generated can be used to develop the game and the kids who come to the game will hopefully want to come back. It's all about attracting people and there is no bigger attraction than Christian Cullen.

And he won't be good for the development of rugby? Yeh right.

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