Leinster plan to build from within and give youth a chance
The curious case of Leinster's season continued yesterday with a press briefing at UCD centred on everything but the game.
Matt O'Connor's men have one last clash before they can put this sorry chapter in their recent history behind them and still need a win over Edinburgh to ensure they finish in fifth place in the Guinness Pro12 and therefore get the best possible ranking when the European draws take place in June.
Even still, the focus has begun to switch to next season, with a World Cup looming for a sizeable bulk of Leinster squad members and those left behind set for increased action.
When they get their trip to Murrayfield over and done with, Leinster's management team and senior players will gather together to assess what, at best, could be described as a mixed campaign.
Few teams could go so close to beating Toulon in a European semi-final and that will loom large in the positives column, but as their main rivals prepare for Pro12 play-offs, Leinster know that they have come up short.
"Come next week I'm sure we will sit down as a coaching group and with some of the senior players as well and go through that process and have a look back and make decisions about where we went wrong and how we can improve the team going forward," asssitant coach Richie Murphy said.
"We haven't played well in the domestic competition and we all know that. We also know we are not a millions miles away from being good enough to be in that top four.
"It is obviously a massive disappointment for us outside of that. . . coming to the last game of the year not in competition is a very strange feeling but that is where we are and we have to get better."
O'Connor has limited scope to add to his squad from outside, with Isa Nacewa filling the overseas quota, and the head coach has already begun the process of preparing for the World Cup period.
Leinster are likely to be severely stretched in certain positions such as scrum-half and front-row, but Murphy didn't sound too optimistic about adding to the numbers.
That means their highly vaunted academy will have to deliver the goods after a season in which the three-time European champions struggled when their big guns were out of the picture.
"Our squad is our squad. There might be one or two guys you might be able to call on from outside to bolster it," Murphy said.
"That's why you a strong academy. Those guys are going to have a lot of pressure on them early season when they are going to have to play games. I don't think there is going to be a massive amount of people from outside.
"A lot of those lads have spent a lot of time with us over the past couple of weeks, a lot more time than they would have previously. Although they aren't getting game-time at that level, we are trying to integrate them into our squad and our way of thinking in what we are trying to do.
"The likes of Garry (Ringrose), Cian Kelleher, Ross Moloney, these guys are in regularly with us and attending the senior meetings. That's the process we are going through at the moment."
Ireland lock Mike McCarthy says the players must take their share of the responsibility for the poor league position.
"You can sense the disappointment," he said of the mood in the camp.
"We came so close against Toulon, emptied the tank . I still wake up and it does hurt. We did come very close. Those few percenters, we could have been in the final and I'm sure we could have given Clermont a good game.
"That plays on my mind a lot. On the other hand, I know how good a squad we've got, how good the coaches are. We have parked that now.
"In the Champions Cup, we finished at the last eight last year. We went further this year to the last four. That's an improvement.
"The league, the lads wouldn't be happy with it. We've let ourselves down sometimes, a few crucial games, when you think back to the Dragons away. We were ahead and should have seen that game out. Hopefully, we can rectify that and put ourselves in a stronger position next season."
O'Connor has no fresh injury worries this week, with Cian Healy the last of the internationals expected to go for surgery ahead of the World Cup.
Darragh Fanning may need a wrist operation before the start of next season, while Gordon D'Arcy could miss this weekend's game with his wife due to give birth this week.