Wednesday 20 September 2017

Barclay banks on stopping 'go-to guy' CJ

Munster's CJ Stander Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's CJ Stander Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

When Scotland stunned Grand Slam champions Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in 2010, their victory was constructed with a sting from their Killer Bs in the back-row - John Beattie, Kelly Brown and John Barclay.

Ireland's Lions trio - Jamie Heaslip, Stephen Ferris and David Wallace - were comprehensively done on the floor and hence Declan Kidney's men were floored too.

Oddly, the trio were disbanded thereafter but, individually, they have hit the high notes since then, notably Brown with Saracens but also Barclay, who joined Scarlets this term from his native Glasgow.

Leinster were trumped by Scarlets at the breakdown last Friday, even without contributing to their own downfall, and the latter will aim to replicate that stunning effort in the Guinness PRO12 final at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday.

Unlike Leinster, however, Munster will seek to propel their ball-carriers and win the collisions to create the space beyond the ball for them to dictate their game strategy so the key aim for Barclay is simple: stop CJ Stander.

"They have got a good back row, obviously," says Barclay. "Two British Lions, Tommy O'Donnell, CJ Stander, then Jean Deysel coming off the bench, they have got quality there.

"But I think Leinster have a useful back row and we dealt with them pretty well, the stats back that up. We turned them over quite a lot on the ground.

"They are a big part of what they do and Stander is a go-to guy. When you have a guy who is carrying 20 times a game week in, week out, you stop him from making hard yards.

"Those 20 carries a game are a big chunk of any team's carries anyway. So you need to stop him and put him on the ground earlier because they are very good at getting front-foot ball and using their powerful carriers."

Intriguingly, Scarlets' trio remains largely unacknowledged beyond West Wales; Barclay has been exiled, Aaron Shingler has dropped off the Welsh international radar while James Davies, outstanding in the RDS, has notably failed to make a weakened summer touring squad.

"He has done that for the last three years," Barclay explains of the blistering performance that highlighted the Scarlets' pilfering of Leinster's HQ.

"I am slightly baffled by his constant omission, it is something I can't get my head around, but I don't pick that team. You play with him week out and you see what he is doing, regularly topping the stats, regularly picking up man-of-the-match awards, I don't really know what more he can do.

"That is probably what lets him sleep easier at nights, there is probably not more he can do to get picked."

Barclay himself will be seeking a significant milestone; like many in his side, this is his first final and another Dublin date doesn't faze him.

"I had never won at the RDS," he adds, "I had never won at the Aviva, but I have won at Croke Park so a Dublin hat-trick would be nice."

Irish Independent

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