South African lock Eben Etzebeth is the kind of world class player that could elevate Leinster to the next level, according to Donal Lenihan.
The RTÉ Rugby analyst suggested in the aftermath of the province's Heineken Champions Cup semi-final defeat to La Rochelle that it could be time to invest in imported skills and power to supplement the talent coming through the academy, and returned to the topic on the latest episode of the RTÉ Rugby podcast, reiterating his belief that "a sprinkling of star dust" would complement the personnel currently in place.
"I think they are entitled to cherry pick one or two of the best players in the world, bring them in to that mix and it would add so much more," he said.
The former Ireland international and Lions manager believes that the provinces "have taken a step backwards over the past two or three years" at the elite level, but that a few key imports could be the tipping point between silverware and contenders.
Lenihan paid tribute to the fact that Leinster’s starting team against La Rochelle featured 15 Ireland internationals, but thinks a marquee signing or two, such as South Africa's World Cup-winning lock Eben Etzebeth, could have a significant impact on the squad.
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"If you want to compete at the very highest level, at club level in Europe, you need that something different," he said.
"I think Leinster need something like that.
"Despite the fact they have James Ryan and Ryan Baird, two brilliant young athletes who will be at the core of what Leinster will do for the next, five, six, seven years, I think they would benefit from brining in someone like Eben Etzebeth into the second row, a big, hard-nosed South African.
"I think he would bring on the likes of Ryan and Baird hugely. He would add something different to the mix.
"If you were Stuart Lancaster or Leo Cullen sitting there, watching back the final on television, there must be some element of regret there because I think they would feel had they come up against that Toulouse side, and all the mistakes they made in the opening half of the game, that it was well within their compass to win that game."
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