Boss: Win or bust

Scrum-half says Leinster won't play to grab just one point in their crucial showdown with Ospreys

Leinster's Isaac Boss. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/SPORTSFILE

Peter Breen

AT TIMES like these you learn the value of preparation. With the advent of professionalism came a new way of thinking, planning and probing.

The last few days have been light in advance of a heavy Friday night. And Isaac Boss, who has togged out as a professional well over 200 times, knows the full value of preparing mentally as well as physically.

After tonight's Round 6 encounter, Leinster will know more about their European fate and a possible date in April, though there are set to be even more twists and turns before the destiny of Europe's top club sides will be known on Sunday evening.

The Ireland scrum-half says that this week is about patience and perseverance; two traits which helped serve the province well in Castres last weekend.

"It's not in our psyche to go into a match trying to get a point", the 33-year-old said ahead of tonight's game. "And it's not the kind of approach that we want to allow to seep into our thought process.

"The lads were understandably wrecked travelling home from France last Sunday, but there was a nice feeling of quiet satisfaction too.

"A five-day turnaround mightn't be ideal, but we're not using it as an excuse. We had to travel to France to play last Sunday, but the Ospreys have to travel to Dublin this weekend. So it's the same for both sides.

"We're managed really well by the S&C (Strength & Conditioning) staff here at Leinster. So with a lighter week's on-field training and a lot of off-field prep work under our belts, we know that we'll be in the best possible shape for the Ospreys."

The Welsh side have proven to be the fly in Leinster's ointment on several occasions over the years. But even if it seems they have little to play for in terms of points, Boss refuses to entertain that the Welsh side will be content to go through the motions.

"They're a very proud team", Boss says. "They have a few Lions boys up front and they have a lot of international quality in their side across the park. It's not in their nature to play half-hearted and as this will be the last hit-out for a lot of their players before the Six Nations, they'll be keen to put in a good performance.

"We know the level of performance that we're going to get from them. But like every week, you can do your research on opposition teams, but it's really about concentrating on your own game and the level of physicality and precision you bring to your own game.

"We have put in some good performances on the road in Europe; the Round 1 win over in Liberty Stadium was a good benchmark, but we probably weren't as clinical in Round 2 at home to Castres.

"Then we went over to Northampton in Round 3 and won well by taking a lot more of our opportunities on the night, but the following week we failed to take our chances and that came back to haunt us in the Aviva.

"Again, if you look at last weekend, by the time Jordi (Murphy) scored our third try we left it quite late to try and go for the bonus point which would have guaranteed a quarter-final place. So that has left us with a bit of work to do and it has certainly sharpened our focus."

Boss has been impressed by the competition which is growing across the panel this year. Fostered by the Academy structures and developed by Matt O'Connor, this year has seen a number of other players feature regularly for the province, which means that there's an anxious wait for all players each week at selection.

"If you take the scrum-half position, both John (Cooney) and Luke (McGrath) are getting better. Look at the competition between Mads (Ian Madigan) and Jimmy (Gopperth) at out-half and how they're pushing each other.

"In the back three it's the same with Zane (Kirchner) not making the team last week and hopefully we'll have Fergus (McFadden) back which will further stiffen competition. It's a great environment to play in at the moment and though you obviously want to play, you know on the other hand that when you do get your hands on a starting shirt, you have to play really well to keep it.

"Over the last few months we have seen the likes of Jack (McGrath) and Marty (Moore) coming strong and they have benefited from increased chances.

"I think that there was always going to be a bit of an adjustment period after Matt (O'Connor) came in last summer but we have shown a fair bit of consistency in parts this season which we want to hammer home now (tonight).

"We showed a bit of heart to beat Ulster at home a few weeks back and the same in winning down in Connacht a week later. Sometimes you have to win ugly.

"Even though we didn't fire on all cylinders in Castres, we got the result. But that performance may not be good enough to win against the Ospreys. Throughout the week we've hammered home the idea about getting our preparation right. We'll look to be positive, that's the only way we want to play."

And the only way they know how.