Leinster have announced the signing of rugby league player Ben Te'o from the South Sydney Rabbitohs. The 27-year-old has played rugby union in the past and will provide options for Matt O'Connor in the centre.
Ben Te'o, who has played with the West Tigers and the Brisbane Broncos in the past and was selected in this year's State of Origin three-game series with Queensland, will mark a significant career milestone this Thursday when he lines out for his 150th National Rugby League (NRL) appearance against the Brisbane Broncos.
Born in New Zealand, he made his senior international debut with Samoa in the 2008 Rugby League World Cup against France scoring two tries.
He will join Leinster once his season with the Rabbitohs concludes and ahead of his arrival Te'o spoke to leinsterrugby.ie.
"This is a great step for me personally and is just the type of challenge that I was looking for at this stage in my career," he said.
"Leinster is one of the leading lights of northern Hemisphere rugby and the opportunity to return to union was also an opportunity too good to pass.
"It was a difficult decision to leave the Souths and league in general but I have taken my time over this decision and I believe that what Matt O'Connor and the coaching team have cultivated in Leinster is something special and I look forward to getting stuck in."
With the NRL season still to reach its conclusion, Te'o will not be joining his new teammates until after his commitments with the Rabbitohs have been completed.
"There is a lot of footy still to be played in this season and I owe it to Michael Maguire, his staff, and the rest of the players and of course the South' members and fans to focus all of my attention on those games starting this Thursday against the Broncos. There will be a time for farewells and thank yous when all is said and done."
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor welcomed the signing and looked forward to his arrival, saying: "Ben is someone that we have taken an active interest in for some time now in particular as he made his intentions to change codes some time ago.
"I was home during the summer and met with him a number of times. He is keen and eager to make a lasting impression at Leinster and to develop into a world class rugby player.
"He has been a great professional in all of the clubs that he has played with and he has all the physical attributes to compete and deliver for Leinster.
"His presence will give us a different dynamic in the midfield. Once he arrives, we will have a player at our disposal for the whole season to augment what is already an exciting array of options for the year ahead."
The lack of recent rugby union experience will not be too big an obstacle either according to O'Connor, who added: "It is something that I dealt with myself as a player but with his professionalism, his physicality and his skill set, there is no reason why the transition can't be a success.
"Both codes are littered with examples of players that have made the transition and I look forward to working directly with Ben when he arrives.
"He is a dynamic and explosive ball carrier and that physicality will enhance our offering both in attack and in our defence. I think the Leinster supporters are going to like what they see.
"I know we in the Leinster coaching team are looking forward to his arrival and the younger players will learn a lot from him. He has the character and the application to be a success at Leinster Rugby."
Ulster fell at the penultimate hurdle in the GUINNESS PRO12 play-offs for the second year in a row, losing tonight's semi-final by two points to Glasgow Warriors who qualify for their second consecutive final.
Munster head coach Anthony Foley has named his team for Saturday's GUINNESS PRO12 semi-final against the Ospreys at Thomond Park (kick-off 2.30pm), with returning captain Peter O'Mahony and winger Simon Zebo both fit to start.
Speaking to Rob Murphy after Connacht's PRO12 victory over the Dragons, head coach Pat Lam said: "There are some things to learn from, but we're pleased to start with a win. When you consider nine in that starting group are under 23, it's good to see some of those talented guys get a chance - particularly the new ones."
Irish Rugby TV ventured west to cover the launch of Mazda's continued support of Connacht Rugby. We hear from new arrival and Mazda Ambassador Mils Muliaina, Kieran Marmion, Jake Heenan and former captain Gavin Duffy.
Looking forward to the new GUINNESS PRO12 season, Connacht captain John Muldoon said: "We've a lot of younger guys who have big years ahead of them and a few big name signings who will hopefully be able to fit into the system and work hard among the ethos of Connacht Rugby."
Irish Rugby TV was at the launch of the GUINNESS PRO12 and we caught up with Jamie Heaslip, Pat Lam, John Muldoon, Matt O'Connor and Rory Sheridan of Diageo as the new sponsor gets ready to kick off an exciting season.
Speaking during Connacht's training trip to Ballinrobe RFC, captain John Muldoon said: "It's great to see the jerseys and the people coming out to support us today. Long may it continue because we're not a Galway team, we're a Connacht team and that's what we want to push and that's why we come out on these days out."
Young hooker David Heffernan, who extended his current deal with Connacht in April, enjoyed a trip back to his native Mayo as Pat Lam's men held an open training session at Ballinrobe RFC earlier this week.
Rob Murphy caught up with Connacht head coach Pat Lam after their bonus point win at home to Benetton Treviso. The westerners have been in resurgent form of late, picking up three straight league victories and 14 points from a possible 15.