Sunday 23 July 2017

Complacency is the main danger as Leo's men look to maintain standards

Leinster’s Ed Bryne made his long awaited return to the team last weekend. SPORTSFILE
Leinster’s Ed Bryne made his long awaited return to the team last weekend. SPORTSFILE

Victor Costello

The ease at which Leinster have disposed of their recent opponents can be both rewarding and deceptive.

Rodney Parade and its surroundings offer little in terms of comfort or sight-seeing for fans and players, and traditionally the small town of Newport was very rugby-focused, which made winning there very difficult in the past.

Dark winter nights on international weekends would be the exact opposite of a May weekend sojourn in the RDS.

The manner in which Leinster beat the Dragons shows the determination of this squad but also opens the threat of complacency come the play-offs later in the season.

The depth of the squad has been the envy of most other clubs and so far managed well by the coaching team.

In the ebb and flow of rugby this is ideally where every club would want to be - having two or three players in every position is a coach's dream - but for Leinster, this will lead to hard selection issues come early April and also a false sense of security when facing an international-laden opposition.

Last Friday night, they could hardly believe their luck at the ease that the Dragons were falling off their tackles.

Welsh international rugby is in disarray and Leinster are smelling blood at club level.

Scarlets tomorrow will be a test considering last week's victory in Thomond Park but it's hard to see Leinster faltering from their rich vein of form.

After a cold and silent Rodney Parade last week, it will be rewarding to be back in the RDS for two games in a row in the lead-up to the Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps.

The determination of the squad to keep winning and climbing up the league table will reap rewards for players individually come the Irish tour in the summer and hopefully beforehand in the play-offs.

The management have succeeded in focusing their players for this period with the goal of maximum points.

The platform this group is setting is a far cry from where they were last season, and this has led to a different mindset from the coaching team.

Last season, every week it seemed like there was a pressure to get a victory at any cost and with the lack of experience from the players at the time, competing at European standard was next to impossible from the basis of an erratic Pro12 campaign.

This year the vast experience has led to consistency of performance week in, week out. It has created a playing environment that has lifted all players out of their comfort zone and pushed them to a level they probably didn't think possible 12 months ago.

Ed Byrne's rehabilitation is a fine example of a home-grown player afforded a certain loyalty by his club over the years of his recovery, and his performance two years later is the payback for the faith shown in him.

This is rarely seen in modern-day rugby, so it was widely celebrated by his peers as they know any given day it could be one of them.

The free-flowing, off-loading game is bringing the best out of the players and performances of Joey Carbery, Jack Conan, Adam Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin will be noticed come the summer tour.

Positivity

With all this positivity, the Leinster squad will have to avoid complacency.

Victory against Scarlets and the Cardiff Blues over the next few weeks are a must and the Cardiff game will give shape to the side chosen to face Wasps the following week.

After this weekend things will start to get serious very quickly.

There will be a certain amount of stepping aside for the international players coming back but the way the Leinster players have handled themselves so far, it will be the Ireland men who will have to maintain the high standard.

The recent performances have given the management time to have a wider view of the challenges that lie ahead.

Now that they are are not chasing the season, they need to embrace it.

Irish Independent

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