Blooding the young players is paying dividends - Heaslip
Published 28/10/2016 | 02:30
At this stage of the season last year, Leinster were already staring down the barrel of an early exit from the Champions Cup.
But last weekend's last-gasp losing bonus point has put them in a good position before the tournament resumes in December.
Defeats to Wasps and Bath in the opening two rounds left Leinster on a single point, but they are already five better than that.
Plenty of young players were blooded during last season's difficult European campaign and Jamie Heaslip believes that the province is beginning to see the benefit of that now.
The likes of Garry Ringrose and Luke McGrath played a key role in the bonus-point win over Castres before scrapping for a point in Montpellier.
"Last year was a long year, a tough year - but get on with it," Heaslip said.
"We were in a tough group last year. We struggled. We are in a tough group this year and, in our squad, we have a lot of young lads who took some learning from it.
"Now we have those back-to-back games which we struggled in last year and we have to look forward to that."
Ringrose's centre partnership with Robbie Henshaw has been one of the highlights of Leinster's play in recent weeks
The two youngsters have taken little time to gel, which bodes well for both Leinster and Ireland. Heaslip has been impressed with both and insists that they are only going to get better with more game time together.
"The kid's going good, he's getting better and better, getting a better sense of it," the No 8 said of Ringrose's development. "Garry and Robbie are getting a better sense of each other and working really well with each other. Robbie's still a kid as well.
"The game (against Montpellier) was... I watched it coming back and I saw the stats this morning at Leinster and they had most of the possession in the first-half, which made sense.
"We turned over a lot of loose ball, but we didn't really have a lot of ball.
"In the second half when we had it, Garry made some nice breaks, Robbie gave some go-forward, when the guys came in from the bench and did what we asked - and added some serious value.
"We got back into it, we got a losing bonus point, which is hard to come by, and that's what we talked about afterwards, we can take some confidence from that.
"I watched it with Jack (McGrath) and Seanie (O'Brien) on the laptop and when the lads looked back at the game, we were saying 'we can be better'.
"Three system errors and three tries. We can nullify them and be a bit more direct, maybe.
"They are three tries, I was involved in two of them. They're tries that we talked about earlier, how you get punished for your mistakes - three errors, three tries.
"Dan Leavy was quite unlucky not to get over I thought, that could have been an interesting twist.
"When we held on to the ball and were direct with them in that second half we put them under a lot of pressure and got tempo into the game. We're obviously disappointed we lost the game but, when we look back at it, it was more on us than on them.
"We can take a bit of belief from that, a bit of confidence from that and we have six points from two games against two big French sides. We're in a good place and we're now focused on Connacht this week.
"They're going well, it's a massive challenge against them."