Thursday 25 May 2017

Feek prepared to take it one step at a time with Hagan

Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

AT the launch of Leo Cullen's book in Dublin last week, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt recalled how after last year's defeat to Treviso in Italy he was asked if this was the "beginning of the end" of Leinster.

The victory marked Treviso's first win over an Irish side and while the province gained a measure of revenge last Saturday, the fixture might have witnessed something of more long-term significance with the front-row combination of Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Jamie Hagan starting their first game together.

At 25, hooker Cronin is the oldest of the trio while 24-year-olds Healy and Hagan are babies in propping terms, meaning they could conceivably become a regular starting front-row for both province and country in years to come.

Healy, of course, is already well established while Cronin is also a regular in Ireland squads, but it is the continued progress of tight-head Hagan that most pleased scrum coach Greg Feek. Hagan thrived with regular game time in Connacht and while minutes on the pitch are more limited with Leinster, the former All Black Feek was satisfied with aspects of his display in Italy.

"I think he is in a position where he is trying to build his game and there are so many little things in that. I think, scrum-wise, he had a couple that didn't go so well, but then he had a couple that did. As a coach, you look at that and see he got decked but he came back on the next one," Feek said.

"As a tight-head you can never put your hand up and say 'I never got caught in my whole rugby career, I won every scrum'. There are not too many tight-heads in the world who can say that. With Jamie, I like the fact that he came back and he hung in there and fought, so that says something about him deep down."

Hagan was withdrawn after 50 minutes, but Feek tipped the Balbriggan man to keep improving.

"For Jamie, I think it is minute by minute, we have spoken about that as well -- let's not worry about next month, next week, next year. Every minute he gets on the field, let's just make the most of it. A scrum goes for 15 seconds, get to the next one and we're just trying to get him to do what he needs to do really."

And after their shock reversal last year, the Kiwi agreed last weekend's win, which leaves them tied on 30 points with Pro12 league leaders Ospreys, was particularly sweet.

"It was talked about last year, how they won quite convincingly and got quite a few points. We knew we had a few guys who weren't coming with us, a few senior members, so it was a really good opportunity for the younger players.

"After the game there was a really good feeling in the dressing-room, that we haven't had for a few weeks, about mission accomplished in terms of going out there and getting the result."

Leinster reported a clean bill of health ahead of the visit of Cardiff to the RDS on Friday night with Richardt Strauss, Heinke van der Merwe and Isa Nacewa, who celebrated the birth of his third daughter last week, expected to be included in the squad.

Irish Independent

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