Thursday 8 December 2016

Early break in season just what doctor ordered for up-and-coming squad

Victor Costello

Published 25/09/2015 | 02:30

Leo Cullen issues instructions to young star Josh van der Flier
Leo Cullen issues instructions to young star Josh van der Flier

Weekends off come about rarely in the hectic rugby schedule, so players always jump at the chance of a bit of free time.

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Leo Cullen and his lieutenants will be lamenting the loss of their top players to the World Cup, but the performances of the youngsters in the first two Pro12 games will have given them a boost.

Integrating these players into the team will be vital over the next six weeks.

This leaves the management to worry only about fatigue and potential injuries to their Ireland representatives come the late autumn.

Week in and week out during a season, the squad have little time to reflect on the previous week's game.

The games come around so quickly that you only have a chance to address the deficiencies of your last performance and adapt for the next one.

Winning at home to Cardiff gives the players a chance to relax, while in training senior players will be more at ease with the somewhat unfamiliar squad, and respect for the youngsters will be high.

It's always good to have competition in a squad it brings out the best in every player.

Encouraging big performances from the young players, while unable to promise them anything, is the balancing act that most coaches have to perform during this time.

Most importantly, it is crucial that a 'them and us' situation is avoided.

The Leinster management has only injury problems to worry about over the next while. When everyone is fit, the squad could match the best in Europe.

So without getting ahead of ourselves, Leinster are in good shape.

The Dragons clash next week will be another stern test, but this home game will be another chance for the young Leinster contingent to show their wares and to cement a consistent home following.

World Cup time provides a great distraction for Leinster to put themselves in a strong position when the limelight lands back on them in November.

After the last couple of seasons, this management will be given time to get it right, and by all accounts this break could not have happened at a better time.

By the end of October, the Leinster management will have their players uninterrupted through to the Six Nations.

This consistency, including the excitement of what Leinster may produce going forward, means all of a sudden their group in Europe might not look so daunting.

The news of Kevin McLaughlin's retirement was a shock, as the recently announced captain would have had many years left in the game.

Kevin's trophy haul with Leinster and Ireland would take other players five careers to replicate.

Kevin was a back-row forward who had it all, and a gentleman with the common sense to call it a day.

It shows the bravery of a young man who will be a success in the career he chooses next.

Now he can sit back and enjoy the memories.

Irish Independent

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