Reddan: Budgets can't become an excuse
Scrum-half adamant Leinster can still compete with big-spending elite
Eoin Reddan knows a thing or two about dynasty teams. He grew up on the fringes of the Munster machine, before playing a pivotal role for Wasps and Leinster during their periods of European dominance.
Now, he is on the outside looking in as Toulon lord it over the continent, and he has been up close and personal with the expensively assembled three-time champions four times in the last two years or so.
The frustration for the scrum-half and his Leinster team-mates is that they don't feel like they're far away from a team who have now beaten them four times in a row, once after extra-time. They haven't been on the end of a hammering since their first meeting in the 2014 quarter-final.
Yet the gulf in class between the team who conquered Europe in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and the side who succeeded them by winning the next three titles has in some ways never looked as big as when they steam-rolled the Irish side in the second half on Saturday night at the Aviva Stadium.
A veteran campaigner, Reddan understands the need to construct a narrative around his team's form but is himself focused on what Leinster can amend to come out on the right side of these matches.
His frustration after Saturday night is the needless concession of penalties when the pressure came on in the second half, yet the point could be made that the error count rose when the superior side packed with quality players squeezed and squeezed until Leinster gave in.
"The difference in money for the English and French unions for their domestic leagues is quite high. That's probably where they're getting their money from. If you look at the first half we put in last week. . . why can't we do that for another 40 minutes?" the scrum-half wondered aloud.
"There are far more simple issues at stake than for us all to follow down a path. Ulster just produced two amazing results that show we can all be working at doing.
"There's other people thinking about the bigger picture and working on them. There's a danger they become excuses and affect your day-to-day, which they can't do.
"Any tournament I've ever won, all I felt after it was relief, because the pressure was on me to win it. Coming to Leinster, they had won the Heineken Cup in 2009, and I was asking myself, what have I put in that trophy cabinet, what have I delivered while I'm here?
"That's the way champions think. External comments that: 'You can't do it, you can't do it, you don't have enough', they don't work. They're not helping."
While others will think long and hard about the lack of squad depth, the poor quality of overseas signings and the growing gap in finances, Reddan believes there are simple fixes that could restore Leinster to a competitive footing.
"There's a lot of rule of thumb going on and quick decisions on things, because when we were doing well in the Heineken Cup a few years ago everyone was coming up with reasons why we were playing well, that we could target the tournament, that we didn't have to play week in, week out," the 35-year-old said.
"Now, you're playing against a Toulon team who are probably playing more together than we have in the last few weeks. They've less internationals, they play together a lot. Now people are saying: 'No, no, no. . . it's because they play a lot'.
"People just make arguments to suit results a lot of the time, whereas you go in and look at the video and say: 'Okay, we gave away twice as many penalties in the second half as we did the first, let's sort that out before we start wondering who's getting paid what'. You know?
"I'm not going to admit to you that we can't beat Toulon. We could have beaten them and if we'd played like we did in the first half for 80 minutes then ye'd all be coming in and asking 'what's different? what's changed?' and I'd probably say 'we gave away less penalties'."
A lot of water will pass under the bridge before Leinster play a meaningful game in Europe again, with the 2015-16 campaign over but for dead rubbers against Bath and Wasps.
The focus will turn to the Guinness Pro12 meetings with Munster and Connacht and the need to win the league to get top seeding for next season's redemption mission.
It allows some time for what Leo Cullen described as "re-assessment" last weekend. It is clear that the province need some improved quality, and Leinster's head of rugby operations Guy Easterby does not believe that their early exit will affect their recruitment.
"We have been competitive for a number of seasons and I think everyone is disappointed that we haven't been as competitive this season, but I would hope that wouldn't have a huge effect," he said.