Friday 9 December 2016

Big challenge now is to make sure we hang on to these emerging stars

Victor Costello

Published 11/03/2016 | 02:30

Players like Irish international Josh van der Flier are crucial to Leinster's future (SPORTSFILE)
Players like Irish international Josh van der Flier are crucial to Leinster's future (SPORTSFILE)

The pre-match media nugget of hype before the Ospreys last weekend was a statistical celebration of Leinster's defensive record. Credit of course due to the hard work of Kurt McQuilkin.

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Leinster's PR machine should moonlight at the next election - and having a win at home against a team like the Ospreys afforded them the opportunity to walk the walk too.

There were times early in the season when Leo Cullen found himself repeatedly explaining losses or poor perform-ances and now since steadying the ship, he is still breaking down the thoughts of himself and the players for the benefit of the media and the public.

Choosing not to bluff or psychoanalyse the media interrogation, Leo's tone and demeanour has not changed over the years and the media are finally getting to grips with his calm equality of mood, whether winning or losing.

As a team, the win against Ospreys will add a tick to the drawing board that was perched in the Leinster meeting room some weeks ago. Individually there were mistakes that were covered up by the performance, but will prove costly later.

Cian Healy's handling errors and penalties can be forgiven with his recent return from injury but the decision to twice to go for the corner with penalties and not take the points could have been costly and will be reviewed this week with a view to making them count in the play-offs.

Ospreys rolled out as many big guns as possible and Rhys Webb caused Leinster some pain. His spoiling and continuous yapping to the ref was negated by the experienced Eoin Reddan and later Luke McGrath.

Dan Leavy impressed throughout and took his try well. Fergus McFadden and Ian Madigan both showed great pace to cut through the Ospreys defence.

With the weather getting a little warmer and the ground getting harder underfoot, the Leinster backs will be able to thrive coming into the summer.

The Leinster pack dominated too at the weekend, with Ross Molony standing out due to his impeccable work-rate off the ball. Molony's activity at lineout time on opposition ball puts pressure on the opposition jumper and therefore their backline also.

This coupled with the industrious Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy and Mick Kearney suggests that Glasgow away in two weeks' time will meet a different Leinster squad than they faced way back at the start of the season. It will also prove a vital test for Leinster to see how far they've come since.

Body language has improved throughout and it is clear that these players know that there is a trophy up for grabs, and competition for places on this rejuvenated team is beginning to hot up, which is bringing the best out of everyone.

Turmoil

In the future, Leinster will look back on 2015-16 as a season of turmoil. World Cup and Six Nations distractions coupled with injury and defection have caused pain throughout.

Bagging a Pro12 crown at the end would show steel that can bring Leinster back to the glory days, and it is quite evident there is belief within.

If there was no World Cup early in the season, when would we have seen the likes of Garry Ringrose or Josh van der Flier, McGrath, Molony, Leavy and others? Every cloud has a silver lining and for Leinster this season, they can prove the transition is complete.

If Leinster can complete a provincial clean sweep and win the Pro12, they can set themselves up for the coming years. Their only problem will be keeping the players they have and selecting them wisely when they have them.

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