Thursday 25 May 2017

Supporters' role is vital - and it's damaging when they don't get to their seats on time

Jack Conan
Jack Conan

Victor Costello

The importance of last week's victory was etched on the players faces the moment they left the tunnel for kick-off.

The minimum standard for Leinster year in, year out is a Champions Cup quarter-final, but this season meant much more than just a box-ticking exercise.

Winning against Wasps was proof that Leinster are back to their best and have a squad that are not just in transition or development but are in a winning phase.

The fear of losing is an integral part of a players' psyche and when matched with power, pace, skill and a definitive game-plan, it made Leinster unstoppable against the best of the British.

Leinster had the game by the throat from the off but the big test came when Willie le Roux knocked the ball on over the line. This was the game deciding moment and the home side won the mental test from then on.

A frustrated Wasps boss Dai Young lamented the fact that Leinster didn't need the likes of Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip and clearly, akin to the sucker punch the Australians felt in the last Lions Test in 2013 without Brian O'Driscoll, Wasps took Leinster for granted at their peril.

Leaving the Aviva last Saturday, Leinster had answered a lot of questions that could have lingered through the summer if the result had been different.

The Guinness PRO12 seems to have value after all and can continue to be the breeding ground for all four provinces.

Individuals like Joey Carbery, Dan Leavy and Jack Conan are bound for greatness. Carbery at full-back cut through a beaten Wasps defence at will but for me it was the back-row and Robbie Henshaw who demolished Wasps, and the same again will be required to win the next game.

Henshaw's constant bombardment of the Wasps defence will make Warren Gatland sit up and take notice of what he and his back-row colleagues are capable of.

Leinster will have facilitated the non-selection of James Haskell, Nathan Hughes and other Wasps players on the Lions tour this summer.

There is no doubt about out it, the crowd played their part - just like our Munster neighbours, they willed the team into the semi-finals.

Crowd participation is very important to the players, and respect both ways is vital. Continued travelling support should follow in Lyon and on the road, the ability to silence the home supporters is vital to winning the mental game, against any team, but particularly the French.

However, like all facets of the game, crowd participation can be improved with Leinster.

Players need to see their supporters sitting in their seats as they run out on to the pitch: core rugby supporters would be disciplined in this area, largely in their seats before kick-off and making a prompt second-half return.

Unfortunately, on occasion, Leinster are missing a few thousand voices that don't seem to be able to make it back to their seats until well after the restart.

This was the case last Saturday and it really dilutes the impact of that vital crowd support.

Rugby players (like most sports players) are conscious of repaying the support and commitment of fans home and away - that bond enhances the experience for player and supporter.

Interest

Loss of interest on one side damages both.

Clermont away is as tough as it gets but at the moment for Leinster, the opposition doesn't seem to matter.

The obliteration of Wasps will have galvanised Leo Cullen's side even more for the next set of play-offs.

The pressure for places increase as the amount of games reduce.

In training this week there will be an appreciation that some boys became men and a natural transition is occurring from old to young.

Leinster's three worst performances this year have been on the road in critical games without critical players.

Ospreys away tomorrow may not seem important but within Leinster there is still plenty to prove.

Irish Independent

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