Jordie Barrett’s signing is a compliment - Leinster and Ireland garner more intrigue than ever before

It’s hard to think of a week when the province flexed their collective muscle to the extent they could announce signings, new coaches and a new home venue

Leinster sure are hogging the headlines, and it’s hard to think of a week when they flexed their collective muscle with such a demonstration of their pre-eminence in Irish rugby.

Following their 40-13 statement quarter-final dethroning of La Rochelle in front of a sell-out crowd which probably earned them in excess of €1 million, first there was the confirmation that Dan Sheehan was following Caelan Doris in being upgraded to a national contract with the IRFU.

Then came the news that they were signing Jordie Barrett on a six-month deal from next December until the end of the 2024-25 season.

And that was just Monday.


On Tuesday evening, just before their travelling squad took off to South Africa for the first of their upcoming double-header against the Lions as they pursue first place in the URC table, Leinster confirmed that the highly-rated former Munster outhalf Tyler Bleyendaal was coming aboard as the replacement for Andrew Goodman as their attack coach next season.

On Thursday they announced that they were moving into the Aviva Stadium next season lock, stock and barrel – with the potential for a few games at Croke Park – while the RDS Arena is being redeveloped into an increased capacity. The same day they also announced plans for their season ticket sales over the next few weeks to existing season ticket holders, those on their waiting list and then public sale.

Then, as if to confirm they are the hottest ticket in town, on Friday the EPCR announced that the Champions Cup semi-final between Leinster and Northampton on Saturday, May 4th was, technically, a sell-out after circa 40,000 tickets were snapped within two or three hours of going on public sale.

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Now, admittedly, as this is an EPCR game, Leinster will not make any money from the Croke Park sell-out. But there will be some sponsors’ bonuses accrued for reaching the semi-finals and on foot of earning home ties in the round of 16 and quarter-finals it’s been another good season for the province.

As reported in The Irish Times on Wednesday, as well as Doris and Sheehan, somewhat belatedly Jamison Gibson-Park is set to be upgraded to a national IRFU contract. This means Leinster’s allotment of national contracts will increase to 10 next season, with Andrew Porter, Tadhg Furlong, James Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Robbie Henshaw, Garry Ringrose and Hugo Keenan the others.

Translated into hard currency, the province with the biggest budget will thus have 10 players on their books whose salaries are entirely covered by the IRFU, while the other provinces will have one apiece – Bundee Aki, Tadhg Beirne and Iain Henderson.

Viewed in that light, it will seem unfair within Connacht, Munster and Ulster that Leinster, with all the advantages of being the capital city team (including unrivalled feeder schools) can supplement the signing of RG Snyman with that of Barrett as well.

Yet it’s also worth stressing that plenty of teams around the world, in rugby and other sports, have the innate socio-economic advantages that come with being based in the capital city, but few maximise these as efficiently as Leinster.

The other provinces would do well to start emulating Leinster’s talent identification and player development, be it the data accumulated and exhaustive research within the province or players and coaches from abroad. Take just Gibson-Park as an example. There’s every chance he might not even have played once for the All Blacks had he remained in New Zealand. Now he’d be the favourite for the Lions number nine jersey. His development, and that of James Lowe, was probably a contributory factor in Barrett choosing Leinster for his segue from the All Blacks.

As well as envy, inevitably, there’s also been some misgivings from a minority of Leinster’s own supporters. Yet no matter what way you look at it, signing Barrett is another superb piece of business by an organisation which – all overseen by Leo Cullen – rarely gets it wrong.

Barrett could play in six different positions in successive games and can goal-kick. Actually, at 6′ 4″, a la his brother Scott, he could probably play in the backrow as well. The Barrett brothers are a credit to Robyn and Kevin, their parents, as well as the latter’s coaching, but one would venture that even given the choice of the three Barretts, Leinster would have opted for Jordie.

With the acquisition of Snyman to complement Ryan and Joe McCarthy, there’s less need for Scott, and as well as being the youngest of the trio, the more versatile Jordi has the kind of warrior spirit which will also be an example to Leinster’s younger players.

A fierce defender as well as a brilliant attacker, one doubts Barrett has ever entered a physical challenge without believing he would win it. Ironically, of course, arguably no one had a more profound involvement in preventing Ireland reaching a World Cup semi-final than Barrett when he prevented Rónan Kelleher from grounding the ball in that quarter-final.

Whatever game time the slew of talented young players such as Ciarán Frawley, Jamie and Andrew Osborne, Rob Russell, Tommy O’Brien, Liam Turner and others may miss out on, it will be more than offset by what they should learn from Barrett.

So it was when the home-grown Leinster players trained and played alongside Isa Nacewa, Felipe Contepomi, Chris Whitaker, Rocky Elsom, Nathan Hines, Brad Thorn and Scott Fardy.

For sure, Barrett will bring home insider information from his time with Leinster, as did Rassie Erasmus and his legion of wandering ‘Boks from Munster, and as Snyman will do. But acquiring rugby IQ has to work both ways and that Leinster and Ireland intrigue rugby minds elsewhere like never before is a compliment.

Barrett’s signing has also generated worldwide headlines, thus underlining Leinster’s heightened status globally, and with them moving out of the RDS and into the Aviva, his arrival will help sell tickets. And the bottom line, if Barrett and Snyman help Leinster’s kit supplier to stitch another star on to their jerseys, then no less than Nacewa et al, it will have been money well spent.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times