Victor Costello: Leinster youngsters must seize final opportunity before big names return
They say leagues can't be won at this stage of the season but unfortunately they can be lost. For the younger members of the Leinster squad, last Friday's game against Scarlets was a harsh lesson on the road.
The contrast of leaving the comfort of the RDS for a dark, cold night in Wales was evident and the trip home from Wales would not have sat comfortably with them.
Most of the Irish traffic was going in the opposite direction to Cardiff with hope and confidence, ahead of Ireland's dis-appointing loss to Argentina, while Leinster were left stewing for a week before tonight's clash with Glasgow Warriors.
Leinster's younger players have recently set out a stall that has proved that the future is bright in Dublin 4.
Garry Ringrose, Cathal Marsh and Josh Van der Flier have raised the standards and are staking a claim for further inclusion even with the Ireland contingent back.
Ringrose has great hunger for the ball and there's an urgency of his play way beyond his tender years. Van der Flier probably met his match in Llanelli and had to deal with containing James Davies, an invaluable experience for him.
Noel Reid is on his way to being an outstanding player. As a centre he has great vision, skill and strength.
However, he probably could have kept more ball in hand and he will have paid for his sin-binning during training this week.
The figure nil sat on the scoreboard for way too long and when Llanelli scored their breakaway interception try, Leinster completely lost their way.
For a full 20 minutes they were mentally out of the game. There will be excitement at some personal performances, but Leinster needed a trigger to get back into the game. It didn't come until Leo Cullen created one by emptying his bench.
Some will say the substitutions should have been made earlier, particularly with the impact made by Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh, but during this time the onus is on the senior players to get Leinster refocused.
Leinster would have hoped that their senior players and overseas contingent would see them through during the World Cup period. The highlight of the last few weeks is that they weren't needed with the youthful exuberance of the rookie players, but against the Scarlets, the senior men needed to dominate and they didn't.
Opportunities were missed last week and some bad decision-making made it a difficult environment but we must look at the positives.
The Leinster lineout has improved significantly and the option of a driving maul off the top provides an efficient service to the scrum-half. While something of a lottery, the lineout was an effective weapon.
The improvement of the set-pieces will benefit Leinster's expansive game, which they hope to play.
Credit has to go to both the coaching in this area and the players on the pitch. Bryan Byrne and James Tracy were deadly accurate while Ross Molony, Tom Denton and Dan Leavy got their jumps spot on.
Leavy certainly lived up to his reputation as a live back-row contender in a thoroughly competitive area.
Last year's Pro 12 winners come to town in a similar position to Leinster but they don't have the depth we have.
Glasgow had some great performances last year but they were also hesitant on the road. Leinster need to win this game for many reasons, most notably to keep their unbeaten home record this season intact.
Beating the champions would be a further boost for the Leinster's young stars.
The return of the senior players is imminent and this game will be one of their last opportunities to shine.
Top performers could find themselves in the match-day 23 with all the big guns for the rest of the season.
For them, every cloud will certainly have a silver lining.