Leinster, the reigning Magners League champions, have announced their senior squad list for the fast-approaching 2008/09 season. The panel includes Southern Hemisphere recruits CJ Van Der Linde, Rocky Elsom and Isa Nacewa.
South Africa’s World Cup-winning prop CJ Van Der Linde and Australian international back rower Rocky Elsom have each agreed deals with Leinster and will join up with the squad upon the completion of their international commitments.
For more details and reaction to the Van Der Linde and Elsom signings, click here.
Ireland ‘A’ hooker John Fogarty joins from Connacht, while versatile scrum half-cum-winger Simon Keogh also returns to the province of his birth after a five-year spell with Harlequins. Both players have signed two-year deals.
Leinster coach Michael Cheika said: “I am really pleased with the recruitment process that has been put in place over the last few months.
“That players of the calibre of CJ, Rocky and Isa Nacewa have decided to move is good news for our team and they will add to the competitiveness of our squad. All three are young, hungry and gifted internationals who are determined to succeed.
“In John Fogarty and Simon Keogh we have recruited players of outstanding experience who are familiar with Irish rugby, and I am sure that they will also be relishing the opportunity of a new and exciting challenge.
“I am delighted to welcome all our new players and wish them well for the new campaign. As a squad, we are all determined to push on and become more consistent in our ambitions in both the Magners League and the Heineken Cup.”
Fogarty, the former Ireland ‘A’ captain, hails from Cork and was educated in Rockwell College. He is a brother of fellow ‘A’ international Denis Fogarty.
He enjoyed a three-year spell with Munster (2000 to 2003) and made 110 appearances for Connacht (83 in the Magners League and 27 in the European Challenge Cup) since his debut in the 2003/04 season.
Commenting on his switch to Leinster, Fogarty said: “We started pre-season (training) earlier this week, and it has been very tough, but my immediate objective is to have the best pre-season I can possibly have because I want to hit the ground running.
“Being up here with Leinster is a source of great pride to me. But I know that although it’s one thing to be here, it’s another altogether to make an impression in a team where the standard of player is so high. It’s a new challenge and an exciting one at that.
“Coming from Connacht, which I thoroughly enjoyed, the lure of Heineken Cup rugby is another massive incentive. It’s great to be involved with a team of this quality and I hope that we have a successful season,” the 30-year-old added.
Dubliner Keogh has re-signed for the province after making 133 appearances for Harlequins where he won the European Challenge Cup in 2004.
A versatile back, he was educated in St. Michael’s College, Dublin. He made 10 appearances for Leinster (four in the Heineken Cup and three in the Celtic League) between 2000 and 2003.
Happy to be back on Irish soil, Keogh said: “I am very excited to be back with Leinster. There have been massive changes since my last spell, not least the facilities which, for one, are light years away from what they were when we would be getting changed out of the back of a car!
“In my first spell with the province I was that bit younger, but I have gained a lot of experience in England and I am going to try and make a positive impression here.
“My ambition is to play, simply. I want to work hard and try to get in the team and I’m looking forward to the coming season.”
In addition to the new arrivals, rising Academy stars Eoin O’Malley and Sean O’Brien have also signed professional contracts to join another young player, Fergus McFadden, who made the senior breakthrough last year.
They will hope to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney, Jonathan Sexton, Jamie Heaslip, Devin Toner and Cian Healy who have all made the step up to the senior squad in recent years.
Meanwhile, Leinster have also confirmed their pre-season schedule ahead of the start of their Magners League and Heineken Cup campaigns.
It includes fixtures away to Padova (August 20) and Benetton Treviso (August 23) as part of a week-long Italian training camp.
Leinster will then play a home game at Donnybrook against Super 14 outfit the Queensland Reds (either on August 29 or 30). The match date will be confirmed shortly.
A new Leinster forwards coach will also be appointed within the next two weeks.
LEINSTER 2008/09 SQUAD:
BACKS (15) – Girvan Dempsey*, Rob Kearney*, Luke Fitzgerald*, Isa Nacewa (Auckland Blues), Shane Horgan*, Gary Brown*, Brian O’Driscoll*, Gordon D’Arcy*, Eoin O’Malley*, Fergus McFadden*, Jonathan Sexton*, Felipe Contepomi, Simon Keogh (Harlequins)*, Chris Whitaker, Chris Keane*.
FORWARDS (19) – Stan Wright, Stephen Knoop*, Ronan McCormack*, CJ Van Der Linde (Cheetahs/South Africa), Cian Healy*, Bernard Jackman*, John Fogarty (Connacht)*, Brian Blaney*, Malcolm O’Kelly*, Leo Cullen*, Devin Toner*, Trevor Hogan*, Cameron Jowitt*, Stephen Keogh*, Kevin McLaughlin*, Jamie Heaslip*, Sean O’Brien*, Shane Jennings*, Rocky Elsom (NSW Waratahs/Australia).
* Denotes Irish qualified