Thursday 25 May 2017

Responsibility lies with fringe players to maintain Leinster's winning culture

With the international players away there’s great emphasis on the performance of rising stars like Adam Byrne. SPORTSFILE
With the international players away there’s great emphasis on the performance of rising stars like Adam Byrne. SPORTSFILE

Victor Costello

After the disappointment on the road in Castres, it is great for most of the squad to turn a page and focus on the Six Nations - or for the ones who aren't involved, avail of a rare two-week break.

In the Champions Cup last season, unfortunately these two games against Wasps set the tone for the season, and retribution will be most welcome come April.

There is no doubt that both sides have changed a lot since then but the all-important home advantage should shift the favourites tag onto Leinster.

But on the other hand there are a lot of players involved in attritional games between now and then, so one game at a time, sweet Jesus!

At first glance it looks like quite a calm period for Leinster with two weeks off and then a Sunday trip to Treviso mid-February.

But if you were to take a step back for a moment, it is a little more daunting for the Leinster management. There will be inevitable anxious moments throughout the Six Nations on the injury front.

Meanwhile, it is hugely important to maintain a top four position in the Pro12. This of course is likely due to the large squad of players but finally as we head forwards the silly season, the question is, will it be possible for Leinster to hold on to their strength in depth?

Yes we can rejoice in the systems that are in place with the academies in the four provinces but as much as this Leinster team progresses in both competitions, there should be contracts put in place to secure the non-flagship players' futures.

It's not be inconceivable that this could happen again. Now is the time to build for the future that most of these young players can be part of.

For those with Ireland, there is nothing like marching into Six Nations training camp with a quarter-final spot in the bag.

The ability to elongate your season into the drier months of April and May breeds confidence from the men in blue jerseys into the green one, and vice-versa come the end of March.

A change is as good as a rest; the Six Nations is emotionally and physically challenging but as usual in this job, winning comes easier than losing.

With provincial success pivotal to the Irish performance, the same can be said for a good Six Nations providing a platform for Munster and Leinster in Europe, and after that individually for the Lions.

Treviso away will be another maximum point haul and will provide a confidence booster for the following week's home game against Edinburgh.

The main issue for the management will be to once again maintain a core team to perform throughout the Pro12 during the Six Nations campaign.

There will no doubt be relief in getting to the Champions Cup quarter-finals from the management's point of view but history will once again remind us that Leinster's success in Europe has always come from a strong domestic season.

There will be a lot of disruption once again throughout this period and managing injuries, bruised egos and the general player drain will be a challenge.

Leinster are lucky that the majority of games are at home during this period, with the only tough away game being the Dragons, the weekend of the Ireland versus France game.

Aspiring

For an aspiring international player, there is nothing worse than an away game in Wales while Dublin is preparing itself for a big Six Nations weekend. It can be a frustrating time and players need to be managed correctly.

Finding the balance between supporting a players' international ambition while making sure they respect the Leinster platform that facilitated their progression, is key for the Blues management.

Continued success of the Leinster team throughout both competitions will give players the foundation for both province and country as well as Lions success.

Every player wants to be part of a winning squad, so as long as Leinster keep winning, everyone will be still on board come April.

Irish Independent

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