Saturday 19 August 2017

With the squad high on confidence, now is the time to reflect on lessons learned

Dominic Ryan has been consistently impressive in his last eight seasons with Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Dominic Ryan has been consistently impressive in his last eight seasons with Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

With the RDS evolving over the years into a very comfortable playing environment for the Leinster players and an atmospheric and logistical delight for fans, I don't remember a game that had such an injury toll as last week's win over Edinburgh.

With three head knocks and two shoulder injuries, the match day 23 was stretched like never before. This time of year provides the normal Six Nations attrition, but the manner in which the Leinster side dusted themselves off, adjusted their positions, and adapted to the ongoing personnel restructuring is a credit to the mental strength of the squad.

With Edinburgh going through the motions, it was hard for the home side to focus their game plan with the rate of injuries. The Scots had plenty of chances, but looked clueless and rudderless.

They stared vacantly into space as Leinster were in player and position turmoil - an ideal situation for any opposition side who would normally smell blood in that scenario.

The introduction of Richard Cockerill as head coach will infuse them with more direction and steel, but for this season they are drifters in the league.

Leinster regrouped for the bonus-point win, but it was a game of two halves if ever there was one, and five or so players had to play out of their normal, comfortable positions.

Dominic Ryan, a player who has performed consistently for Leinster over the last eight seasons, carries a presence on the pitch beyond his 26 years.

Last Friday was no exception for his short time on the pitch and as usual the standard was again maintained by the introduction of Dan Leavy.

Leavy can play both six and seven, but with his phenomenal work rate he should be picked at seven to give him quicker access to the action.

Ultimately, these days the numbers on the jerseys of the back-row don't really matter in Leinster and each unit that is picked complement each other with different skill sets.

With this fine group of players in most positions and the recent public declaration of discontent in France by Ian Madigan - and also with sterling at a significant low - it would be a good idea to start contract negotiations with this bountiful bunch, but I guess that battle is for another day.

Josh van der Flier's exit was unfortunate for his international season and will facilitate the call-up of one of his Leinster colleagues.

Joey Carbery continues to raise eyebrows after his short time away with injury and his ability to break tackles dumbfounds both the opposition and the fans.

His performance, along with others, showed that Leinster are playing with confidence and are enjoying their rugby.

With a week to lick their wounds and a run of Welsh games on the trot, Leinster have an ideal chance to grab control of this league.

Every try that's scored with ease is proving that Leinster are learning how to put teams to the sword when they have them on the ropes.

To the delight of the fans, the confidence is so high that the Welsh trio over the next few weeks are unlikely to put a dent in it. Even the traditionally tough Rodney Parade this evening should prove a happy hunting ground for a buoyant Leinster.

Commit

So all is good in camp Leinster. The Six Nations period has proven in the past to be a time of discontent, with players performing week-in-week-out, but unlikely to be selected for the bigger games down the track.

That is clearly not the case this season and with Stuart Lancaster likely to put pen to paper and commit to the province for the next couple of years, for him there seems a happy marriage of rejuvenation and success.

Leo Cullen's role in reaching out to the ex-England coach proves his worth beyond the hands-on coaching role he currently holds.

However, at this time of affluent rugby and bonus points, let's still address Montpellier, Munster and Castres away - the three games this season that Leinster can and must still learn from while they have time to reflect.

Irish Independent

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