Monday 5 December 2016

Reid eager to put woes of last season behind him

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Published 04/09/2015 | 02:30

Noel Reid is looking forward to the new season with Leinster and below in action during training
Noel Reid is looking forward to the new season with Leinster and below in action during training

Last year he was supposed to pick up where he had left off the season before. Noel Reid was in a good place. A career high of 15 appearances - 13 from the start - and seven tries in 2013-14 had earned him a Pro12 Young Player of the Year nomination.

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The campaign was finished off by a first senior cap for Ireland. More please. The script may have been written but within minutes of the opening game of 2014-15, it had been torn up.

"I injured my ankle in the first game of the season away to Glasgow. At first I feared the absolute worst but in the end it wasn't broken," recalls Reid. "But after a promising pre-season and just wanting to build on my appearances the season before, it was a huge blow."

It was the first season without Brian O'Driscoll so there was a vacancy in the centre.

"I thrive on game time but with an injury so early on you are on the back foot," he says. "Ian Madigan was obviously playing well. You had Gordon D'Arcy, Brendan Macken, Luke Fitz and then Ben Te'o came in so the writing was on the wall.

"Others would get those chances not me so I knew that I would have to be patient. But it was a difficult start to the season definitely."

Battles

There were highs to go with the lows last season. The 25-year-old former St Michael's man battled back from that ankle injury to make his European debut against Wasps in the RDS.

There were also flashes of brilliance and tries against Cardiff Blues and Edinburgh. His end-of-season form got him a spot on the Emerging Ireland team and a place in the World Cup training squad.

"Over in Tbilisi we did well with Emerging Ireland and got the win and I saw that as an opportunity to impress the Irish senior coaching team," says Reid.

"From the low at the start of the season and the injury to the high of then getting announced as one of 23 Leinster players in Joe Schmidt's initial training squad was a good example too of how fickle this sport can be and that you have to be mentally tough to get through those moments."

However, there was to be another low. Being left out of the final World Cup squad was one of mixed emotions for the Clontarf man.

"Of course I was disappointed but again I looked at it as a positive as well," he says. "It was another step in my progression. I only won my first cap last summer so the opportunity to train at a higher level and expose myself to different coaches and tactics was brilliant.

"And on the back of that coming back in to Leinster, I feel that I am in a really good place and I can't wait to get started against Edinburgh."

Different coaches and tactics at Leinster too. But familiar faces.

"It's been a really good three weeks or so," says Reid. "Yes they are different in terms of job titles, but I've worked a lot with Girvan (Dempsey), for example, with the Leinster As so I know what he is like.

"The transition has been seamless not just for Girvan with the backs but for all the coaches. They've settled well and the players have bought in."

The pre-season game against Ulster was another chance to see the Reid/Te'o axis in action and it didn't disappoint.

"We got a few runs together last season and I enjoyed it. Same against Ulster and again against Moseley we got another opportunity," says Reid.

"But nothing is cast in stone. Darce, Garry Ringrose, Collie O'Shea, Steve Crosbie. . . all these lads are also hugely in the mix and we've all got to keep pushing each other and keep driving the standards across the board."

Speaking of 13s, with O'Driscoll retiring, Te'o was the big-name signing (from rugby league) but Reid was unsure at first.

"When Ben came in, being honest, I didn't know what to expect. He was coming from a different code and you were waiting to see how he would get on," concedes Reid. "But he settled quickly and once he got over the arm injury we saw what he could bring to the table.

"I don't think people appreciate how good an all-round footballer he is.

"I think we complement each other well in that I am more of a distributor at centre but he has power. He can run direct but also has superb balance and feet. He is deceptively quick as well.

"He is definitely one of those players that you would look forward to seeing and I think Leinster fans will enjoy seeing him this season."

Understanding Te'o's nuances is helped by the fact that they also live together.

And despite what people may think from their antics on social media, Reid says that as well as the live Periscope Q&As over how to cook the perfect sweet potato fries, a lot of work gets done in their Milltown apartment.

Craic

"We get on well definitely and of course have a bit of craic on Twitter or Instagram but what I think has helped Ben is that with his relative inexperience in rugby union, me being on hand to chat things through or go through additional video work is a huge plus," says Reid.

"You need to know when to unwind as well but we also know when to tune in and this week for example, has been very good ahead of Edinburgh."

On Edinburgh, he is taking nothing for granted and isn't looking too far ahead either.

"The temptation is to start looking ahead and while we have targeted this World Cup period as an opportunity for us you can't lose sight either of Edinburgh," he says.

"I think 10 of their players that started against us in May were involved against Ulster in their pre-season friendly. So they will have good continuity and shape.

"But we also have confidence in what we are about and in what Leo (Cullen) is trying to get us to do on the pitch and we look forward to performing for him and for the supporters."

Another trip to Scotland to kick start a new season but Reid & Co are hoping that that's where the similarity ends.

Irish Independent

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