It says a lot that, even with the return of nine Ireland internationals to their team, including James Ryan, Josh van der Flier and Garry Ringrose, it was the selection of Ciarán Frawley that set tongues wagging.

The future of 'number 10' has arguably been discussed more in Irish rugby circles than it has in the UK in recent months, and now it seems Frawley is getting his opportunity to audition for it.

While he's covered out-half at stages in games over the last couple of seasons, the 24-year-old only has one start at 10 in the last couple of seasons, where he led an second-string outfit well against the Stormers in Cape Town back in April.

It's become apparent though that Ireland head coach Andy Farrell rates the Skerries native as an out-half, showing good flashes in his appearances for an Ireland XV against the Maori All Blacks over the summer, while he's also set to get further experience in that position for Emerging Ireland on their upcoming tour of South Africa.

The bulk of that Emerging Ireland squad will sit out this weekend's BKT United Rugby Championship games as they meet for a mini-camp in Dublin before flying to Bloemfontein on Sunday. And in that regard, it was notable to see Frawley allowed skip the camp in Abbotstown, in favour of getting a run-out for his province tonight, particularly with the number 10 shirt on his back.

With established Ireland internationals named both in the backline outside him, and in the pack in front of him, tonight's URC meeting with Benetton at the RDS is an ideal window into Frawley's future potential in the position.

"He has covered 10 for us, and played at 10 for us a number of times before," head coach Leo Cullen said.

Frawley played at out-half for Ireland XV in their tour games against Maori All Blacks in the summer

"With Ross [Byrne] and Harry [Byrne] there as well it's just competitive, but they are three relatively young guys. but at different stages.

"Ciaran played a lot initially at 10, moved to 12, and he has been back and forth a bit. He had to have that shoulder surgery, played more at 12 than 10 last year but he is back playing 10 this year so it is great to have that versatility."

And Cullen has dismissed the idea that the versatile midfielder needs to concentrate on one position in the short-term, citing one of the game's all-time greats as an example of a crossover out-half/centre.

"The likes of Dan Carter would have done that role as a ten and 12 internationally and at club level. He [Frawley] has had some great games for Leinster already in both positions.

"We're very lucky with the 10s we have, a 10 that has been around for quite a while and who is still in top of his game [Sexton], as we all witnessed over in New Zealand, then Harry [Byrne] who was also out in New Zealand but didn't play – I don’t know what the intention was in terms of who was going to play what games leading in to the tour but Frawlsey ended up playing 10 out there.

"Frawls was on the bench last week with a 6-2 split and he covered 10 during the week so he is playing at 10 and we will see how he plays tomorrow night.

"Ross [Byrne] has been great for us, ran the team well last week. It’s tricky because we have a number of academy players involved in the game last week, young group, and a lot of changes this week."

The Leinster coach wouldn't be drawn on the speculation linking his senior coach Stuart Lancaster with a move to Racing 92 this summer, although the French club did confirm they are speaking to the Englishman yesterday.

"I'm going to be clear, a lot things are written, a lot aren't true. There have been talks and there are talks, we're not going to hide it," said Racing coach Laurent Travers, who will become club president next season, creating the vacancy.

A potential Lancaster (above) exit would be the third coaching departure in 12 the space of months, while long-term CEO Mick Dawson is also stepping down in November, after 21 years in the role.

Add to that the expected retirement of captain Johnny Sexton, and the province could be set for sweeping changes between now and next September.

Cullen moved to play down the potential impact of becoming a team "in transition", however.

"The transitional phase is always there. It moves on so quickly," he added.

"The big thing for me is always the people part, so you get the good people in place and great things can happen then.

"We've been very lucky that we’ve great players, young players that come into the group, support staff are very caring and work their a***s off throughout the season and will do whatever it takes really to help the players be as good as they can be on the weekends when they play in front of you guys and the supporters and all the rest, family and friends.

"Again, sometimes change has to happen. That’s just the way it is.

"You think of some of the top-end players that have played for the team, and how will they be replaced? Like, Brian O’Driscoll, he’s one of the top players but the show rolls on. That’s what happened. The show rolls on. Someone else steps in. Garry Ringrose is captaining the team tomorrow, he was a young player at that stage when Brian was finishing up. He comes into the team and off he goes, plays for Ireland and does wonderful things and all the rest. That’s just the nature of it.

"The big thing is making sure we’ve doing everything we can to broaden the base of talent. Particularly young playing talent. But also that they’re trying to live the right values and representing the club and the brand, so to speak, as well, and everything wider that fits into that as well.

"That’s the bigger piece for me, always."

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