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Blues' fringe stars should move: Friend

Connacht coach Andy Friend
Connacht coach Andy Friend

By Declan Rooney

Connacht coach Andy Friend has urged some of Leinster's fringe players to give it a go with the other Irish provinces in order to increase their first-team game time.

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According to the Australian native, Connacht are in discussions with a number of players about joining next season, and he thinks players who are third or fourth choice with Leo Cullen's Blues would benefit from a move to the Sportsground.

Friend declined the opportunity to name any of his targets and would not be drawn on links surrounding Leinster's Hawaii-born tighthead Roman Salanoa with a move west, but says he is keen to speak to potential new recruits.

"We've got a chunk of blokes we're talking to at the moment. We need to fill certain positions and we're looking for players but it's too early to let you know who they are," said Friend.

"I believe Leinster are entitled to take their top, top players. But if there's players who are sitting fourth and fifth there and want game time, it would make sense to share that around.

"There'd be certain players there who are sitting third and fourth or fourth and fifth in Leinster I think would look good in different jerseys. Whether that's an Ulster jersey, a Munster or Connacht jersey would be good.

"Now it's up to them whether they want to leave or not. But there are other players out there, not just Leinster players."

Friend will lead his side to the south of France this weekend for a dead-rubber Champions Cup game against Montpellier. Neither side can qualify from the pool, but Friend insists he will pick a strong side, although Ultan Dillane (hip) and Finlay Bealham (quad) are injury doubts.

In recent weeks Connacht have been unable to play full training games due to injury, illness and player unavailability, but with the likes of Kieran Marmion, Tom Farrell, Conor Kenny, Conor Fitzgerald and Peter Robb all back, the intensity of their training has picked up too.

"That training session we just had was the first time we were able to have enough numbers," said Friend. "We've been able to get 13 on 15, or 12 on 15, and sometimes we've had 15 on 15. But if you've got another 15 sitting behind it and you can give one 15 a break and keep the intensity up, it's massive.

"I did hear Leinster saying they played 44 players in the interpros, which means you've got three squads basically. And if you've got that all the time, and that quality of player, it's going to be quality sessions.

"Leinster maximise their ability. You don't get born in Dublin and become a good footballer, you've got to work. There's something special going on there."

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