Friday 21 July 2017

Leinster have been playing a brand of rugby that Ireland can only aspire to

If we could turn back time Dan Leavy could have been an impact substitute
If we could turn back time Dan Leavy could have been an impact substitute

Victor Costello

With Leinster sitting pretty at the top of the table and enjoying some time away from the match-day spotlight, it will be hard for the players to ignore the plight of their international colleagues.

The ebb and flow of professional sport proves that unpredictability lives on and you really are only as good as your last game.

The Irish squad can salvage pride and dignity from their last game of the Six Nations in the Aviva tomorrow but either side of the result, there will be an investigation as to what went wrong over the last six months and how to avoid the same in the coming years up to the World Cup in 2019.

Ironically, the same demise by the Irish squad at the end of the World Cup in 2015 was the initial building phase of the greatest squad of players Leinster have ever had.

The development of the province has been meteoritic and for international players, having an adequate balance between club and country can lead to successful seasons - and successful careers.

In 2009 both club and country excelled with a Grand Slam as well as Leinster's first European Cup success. Rarely since then have both delivered in tandem .

It is hard not to think of the players that would have made a difference to Ireland's campaign if they had been either fit or selected.

If we could turn back time, the chances are Luke McGrath would have been an impact sub and Josh van der Flier a starter at some stage if not injured, as well as Dan Leavy.

For players leaving international camp, a change is as good as a rest. Having a Champions Cup quarter-final to look forward to refocuses the mind, and players can walk back into a successful atmosphere in the home comforts of their province.

Leinster and Munster will compete on the same day, while Ulster and Connacht's seasons will roll to a silent finish, as their best is clearly behind them.

With one match at home to Cardiff before the showdown against Wasps, selection will be interesting.

Leo Cullen will have one group of players who have consistently performed and maintained a high standard while the Pro12 continued through the international period and another group returning from what will be deemed (no matter the result against England) an unsuccessful Six Nations.

The management will need to keep continuity while reintroducing the senior players into the fold as they see fit.

There is no doubt that the returning players will be chomping at the bit, and any hangover will be negated by the urgency to get back on the horse.

Leinster have been playing a brand of rugby that the Irish squad would have aspired to throughout the Six Nations.

Ross Byrne has maximised his resources around him with a fine balance of an outstanding kicking game, yet also possessing the vision to release Adam Byrne, Rory O'Loughlin and Joey Carbery when the time is right.

This confidence has made Leinster a serious attacking threat. It is unlikely that we will see such a perfect performance in a Six Nations period but it will fade into insignificance unless Leinster beat Wasps.

The recent success can be put down to the unearthing of quality players coming through the academy system and with the World Cup vacuum last season the ascension of these players .

Ruthlessness

The Wasps game will be different. Leinster will not have the space nor the time on the ball that they have been afforded recently and precision and ruthlessness will be key.

The intensity of the first half simply must be dictated by Leinster if they are to get the right result.

With time now almost upon us, the Cardiff match needs to be used as a dress rehearsal.

Unlike in the Ireland set up, the Leinster bench for the next few games needs to be of a proactive impact nature and used at an ideal time in order to dish out possible revenge against the best of the English.

Irish Independent

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