Wednesday 18 October 2017

Leo must make hard and possibly unpopular calls to get over the line

Garry Ringrose goes airborne to gather the ball against Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile
Garry Ringrose goes airborne to gather the ball against Ulster. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

Sometimes you might have to go back to go forward and in Leinster's case, the hope is that this is indeed true.

The ability to mix teams around over the past while has been the envy of other clubs, but there is always a value in stability too.

Inter-pro games traditionally have had many purposes over the years. They have had a role in selection for the Irish squad for decades but more recently they've played other roles.

They give great measure-ment to where a team is performance wise as seen last weekend.

Even though Ulster were out of the title race, they still put in a performance that Leinster could not cope with. If Ulster had still had a chance of winning the league, this would have been a great revenue generator for the Guinness PRO12.

For Leinster, this game should have been a victory to set up their attack at the title but instead raised a few questions.

Yes Ulster had emotional motivation, with Ruan Pienaar and Roger Wilson's last game in the Kingspan, and for a while it looked like Leinster were biding their time. This was not the case and the vulnerability of Leo Cullen's side was exposed.

With the semi-final in the bag it would be naive to think Leinster could afford to drop the ball with this game. In 80 minutes they lost the top spot in the league, got a severe confidence shunt and now have Munster claiming the high moral ground on personnel for the Irish tour this summer.

The Kingspan is a tough place to play; the crowd are hostile but respectful.

Leinster looked a shadow of the team that have been racking up points in the RDS for the last six months and with the upcoming games, they need to take a strict look at their selection policy.

Slow starts are the management's worst nightmare and are increasingly becoming a habit but it is one that Leinster need to avoid.

Ross Molony and Cian Healy's impact off the bench was a little too late but their ability to turn a game on its head was almost realised.

Both sides felt frustrated with an inconsistent referee and when this is the case, the 50-50 calls will always go to the home side.

Joey Carbery's skip pass is impressive but when over-used it is sloppy.

His opposite number Paddy Jackson's career has plateaued and will likely decline with the loss of Piennaar, which will keep Carbery in the international frame to develop.

There were positives to take out of the game and the destruction of the Ulster lineout is one of them.

Devin Toner has become a stalwart in the set-pieces for Ireland and Leinster but his talent in picking off the opposition lineout has been under-utilised until last weekend.

A defeat in Ulster is a bitter pill to swallow and both players and management have to take responsibility and move on.

I have no doubt that Leinster will beat Scarlets at home next Friday but this is a competition they need to win.

With Munster lurking, Leinster need to be firing and use last weekend as a wake up call. They need to find their best XV to win the PRO12, and current form and experience must be a priority.

There has been an ability by the management to mix teams over the last nine months but over the next few weeks they will need to make hard and possibly unpopular calls.

Spectrum

The last two seasons have been at opposite ends of the spectrum and these calls must be made to stabilise the club going forward

For the summer tour Leinster's representation will depend on the coming weeks and their foundation in the league should get them across the line.

For the most part, the Irish management will have their team selected but Leinster need to get reward from their hard work and consistency.

In this sport sometimes the whole season comes down to 80 minutes and Leinster have potentially two home games to finish with.

Out of 50-odd players used through the season it will come down to XV to get the job done.

The days of keeping the whole squad happy are over, albeit temporarily.

Irish Independent

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