O'Brien bemoans Blues' lack of leadership
Leinster have blamed this season's Pro12 travails on many factors but ultimately, as they chase the victory tomorrow evening in Belfast that will sustain their last tilt at silverware into May, the bare facts do not lie.
Matt O'Connor's men have simply not been consistent enough and, beyond any coaching flaws or the inability of their stellar signings to shine, their renowned strength in depth has also not been fit for purpose.
Last season, Leinster sustained their charge to the league title by hoovering up 19 of a possible 20 points during the Six Nations when deprived of their 17 international stars.
Fast-forward 12 months and they managed just a paltry solitary win during the international window; low-lighted by the double defeat to Dragons, the last of which came outside the window but also without the now 20-strong international contingent.
"When there are a lot of the key players missing, everything feels a lot quieter," outlines Sean O'Brien (left), who seems a captain-in-waiting for both club and country before he hangs up his boots.
"That bit of leadership is maybe lacking at times," he adds pointedly. "There was a lot of inconsistency throughout the year. Probably lack of voice, lack of leadership was a bit of a thing at times during the year when certain lads were injured and lads being minded by the Irish system. It leaves a lot less voices on the field.
"All the provinces are in a similar situation. I just don't think we went about certain games in the right manner. The lads know that as well but you take out certain players who played for Leinster last year during the Six Nations and they were involved in the Six Nations this year.
"Then you have the younger crop coming through in for them so that's what I mean by a bit of experience. Lads should learn from the bad days this year, to not let them happen again."
Rob Kearney also assesses their league form through the prism of those occasions when the leading lights have been absent and, by implication, when others have struggled.
"You look back on Dragons home and away and our form during the internationals. Simple enough. Last year we got 19/20 points during it, this year we were really poor. I don't think it's much of a worry, just more needs to be expected of them."
However, the same situation promises to recur next season. "It's not a worry," says Kearney. "You just need to put a bit more pressure on the guys who are in that situation to make sure that they're getting the returns."
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