Sport Rugby

Friday 20 October 2017

Leinster must get job done tonight without any traces of complacency

Jack Conan was on a mission for club and country against Montpellier Picture: Sportsfile
Jack Conan was on a mission for club and country against Montpellier Picture: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

The manner of the victory over Montpellier last weekend was like an antidote to all of the tough past trips to the south of France that eventually led to success in Europe.

The predictability of the capitulation of the Montpellier team means that the true ethos of rugby lives on. Leinster can be assured that its players young and old will always hold a standard of performance which they will not dip below.

Sugar daddies can purchase a team of individuals at a hefty price to produce performances but, ultimately, when the going gets tough, you have to rely on the guy beside you and his trust in you to get the job done.

With the Montpellier muscle machine in full flex, in the first 15 minutes, it took a confident, structured defence to weather the storm.

Leinster waited for the right time to strike when Montpellier were getting no change from their pressure and, fittingly, Isa Nacewa started off the try rout.

Couple that initiative with the stupidity of Frans Steyn's high tackle on Johnny Sexton and the game was left in the hands of an ever-improving and dynamic Leinster outfit.

With Sexton's recent vulnerability in the upper body obviously being a talking point in France, it would be naive to think that he wasn't a target from the off.

The only threat to Sexton's health will be the stupidity of some players taking the law into their own hands and referees not clamping down on it.

The body language of the players, coupled with their performances, implied that the comprehensive win was on the cards anyway.

Jack Conan's display particularly proved that he is a player on a mission for his club and country, whatever position he is picked in in the back-row. His support play and general work rate seems unstoppable and his three tries were impressive.

The two wingers, Adam Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin, seem to try and outdo each other every game as the pendulum swings between both on the try count. With the usual players keeping their standards up, qualification for the quarter-finals came a lot easier this season compared to recent years.

Under normal circumstances, qualification would take the full complement of pool games to achieve; in Leinster's case, with one game to go, it's not a time to reflect or become complacent.

With the surge in performances over the last few months and a plethora of young players demanding selection for both club and country, the coaches need to ask themselves: is this team really that good or are the other teams less so?

Looking at the bigger picture, Clermont, Saracens and Munster will be the teams to beat - all seasoned European champions.

Leinster will face a Castres side who are out of the running in Europe and history will dictate that French teams switch off in this scenario. Castres will still perform at home and certainly will not be as poor as Montpellier were. But, ironically, I would hope that they push Leinster and test their resolve while being able to finish this pool well and making sure the home quarter-final is secured.

The well-recognised fact of the abundance of talent in the Leinster camp has led to a sizeable squad to pick from through injuries, internationals, and player management periods.

Benefits

This season's success compared to last year has been the expeditious development of players from the academy to the senior team but come quarter-final time the benefits of a large squad dissipates and the Leinster management need to start figuring out their best XV players to start and their best eight to make an impact off the bench.

With the injuries being rehabbed and the Six Nations out of the way come April, there will be harsh selection decisions to be made and as much as the players are enjoying themselves now, the margin of error in Europe will soon start to narrow.

In the meantime, Leinster can still pick any formation out of 30 players to finish the immediate job in hand tonight.

Irish Independent

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