September 18 2014, updated 8:15am

Stags bag a lock through the Irish connection

BY NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2009

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Irish lock David Gannon will arrive in Invercargill on Thursday to bolster Rugby Southland's limited second-row stocks.

The 26-year-old former Ireland A and age-group representative is expected to be the Stags' third-ranked lock when the squad is named early next week.

At 1.97m and 106kg, Gannon can play in the tight or at blindside.

He has played 68 games for Connacht in the Magners League and represented Ireland A during the 2006/07 season.

His games included the Churchill Cup, in which he scored a try against the New Zealand Maori team.

Rugby Southland chief executive Roger Clark said Gannon had been sourced through local player agent Tom Downey's international contacts.

The Stags had originally hoped New Zealand under-20 lock Alex Ryan would be capable of providing the backup role to first-choice tight forwards Josh Bekhuis and Joe Tuineau during this year's Air New Zealand Cup.

While Ryan had played well against North Otago last week, it was agreed during a meeting between Rugby Southland officials and the player that he was not ready for the rigours of a full Air New Zealand Cup campaign, Clark said.

Other local options, including Craig Smith and Ben Nally, also needed time to develop, he said.

Rugby Southland had looked throughout New Zealand for a suitable lock, but had come up short.

An approach to Wellington to get former Woodlands lock Daniel Ramsay on loan back to his home province for a season was complicated because Ramsay has broken his hand.

Wellington coach Jamie Joseph had indicated Ramsay, who is in Wellington's training squad, would have played in the capital's preseason Ranfurly Shield challenges had he been available, Clark said.

Wary of past disappointments, Stags co-coach David Henderson had seen game tapes of Gannon playing.

While contracting an overseas player was not ideal, Clark said the lack of immediate depth in the position had forced the union's hand.

"Normally we wouldn't bring in outside players and we've been trying our best not to."

Gannon had stated an intention of staying in New Zealand if his rugby career developed, Clark said.

"He's coming out here to make the Stags, but just as importantly, if he likes it, he's looking at the option of this being his home."

Gannon will not be available for Friday's preseason game against Canterbury starting at 4.30pm but could play against Otago in the final preseason game on July 24.

The Southland team to play Canterbury will be named tomorrow.

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- The Southland Times

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