Gibbes: Pack must be focused or we could be embarrassed
Published 05/01/2011 | 05:00
LEINSTER forwards coach Jono Gibbes believes the Ospreys have grown "an arm and a leg" in the scrum this season and have the potential to embarrass the province if they are not focused for Friday night's Magners League meeting at the RDS.
In using that phrase, the former All Black is not implying that tales of the champions' set-piece power have been exaggerated, rather he is acknowledging the demolition job the Ospreys did on Munster at the Liberty Stadium before Christmas.
Props Paul James, Duncan Jones and Alan Jones were comprehensively on top in that encounter and their scrum nearly inspired a comeback victory over Cardiff Blues last weekend. It means Gibbes has been busy with his video analysis ahead of Friday's showdown.
"They (the Ospreys) have shown they have grown and developed and can withstand a bit of pressure," said Gibbes.
"They were also able to get back into the game through the scrum, which seems to have grown another arm and a leg. They seem to have gained real confidence out of it. I've certainly taken a clear interest in that.
"I think they got a penalty try when we played them over in Swansea, so we know the scrum is going to be important.
"If they get the quality platform with the scrum, with the angle they want, or a line-out, they can do some serious damage. As forwards we have a responsibility to look after our backs by giving them as much time and space to read what they are trying to defend."
Leinster's own scrummaging operation has been a major plus-point this season, particularly in their back-to-back Heineken Cup games with Clermont, although it was solid more than dominant in their Christmas derby wins over Ulster and Connacht.
So, does Gibbes think the Ospreys will do to Leinster what they did to Munster? "I'd hope not. I would hope a few lessons have been learned," he said.
"We have had a nice little bit of growth with our scrum this year but every game is a little bit different. They could come with different tactics. The ref could interpret things a little bit differently. We need to be adaptable but make no bones about it, we need to be bloody focused or we could get embarrassed at home."
With Stan Wright not due back from injury until February at the earliest, Clint Newland was brought in as cover from New Zealand but has had difficulties adjusting to his northern hemisphere scrummaging duties.
The scrum leader has been Newland's fellow tight-head Mike Ross who, together with loose-heads Cian Healy and Heinke van der Merwe -- and second-rows Leo Cullen and Nathan Hines -- has provided the platform for the back-row and backline to flourish.
"Don't count the minutes, you make the minutes count. I think Rossy has made his minutes count a lot more this year," acknowledged Gibbes. "Stan's injury has provided a lot of opportunity for Mike this year and he's a resilient sort of guy.
"He's added a lot more -- him and (scrum coach) Greg Feek have gotten along pretty well, he's used his experience there and he's really enjoying his scrummaging stuff. He's got challenges with other areas of his game as well but we're seeing improvements there as well."
The Ospreys' last visit to the RDS was for the league's Grand Final in May and Gibbes says Leinster's memories of that 17-12 defeat still rankle.
"My frustration was that the year's work we had put in, we didn't perform the way you need to in order to win a Grand Final. It was massively disappointing."