Shane seeks vengeance

League final defeat still haunts Jennings ahead of Ospreys tie

Peter Breen

For Shane Jennings, this weekend is about the quest for improvement. It has been said that living on the edge can present opportunities.

The precarious nature of challenging oneself to the nth degree hones the desire and maintains the drive for success.

Though Leinster have secured six wins from six in all competitions in recent times, this weekend the challenge of an in-form Ospreys in the Liberty Stadium is enough to ensure that standards can and will not dip.

That the two teams' last outing was the Magners League Grand Final defeat in the RDS back in May serves only as a secondary factor, but still a factor nonetheless.

The hurt from that defeat still resonates for Jennings, who led the side that day in the absence of Leo Cullen.

And the Dublin-born wing forward believes that the dual desire to maintain their recent run and atone for that disappointment can drive on the province.

"I hope the lads remember the final back in May and do feel the hurt this week, because the last time we played them they embarrassed us," Jennings reflected ahead of Sunday's clash.

"Only by looking at the analysis over the last week have we had time to go over our performance that day and it wasn't good enough.

"Of course it's a fresh start for us this season with new personnel in the coaching and player side of things, but you don't forget days like that easily."

Though the Ospreys, like Leinster, are without a number of frontline internationals because of their November commitments, Jennings has been impressed by their reserves, who last weekend sealed a late victory in Galway against Connacht after putting his old club Leicester Tigers to the sword in the LV= Cup.

"Every year we play them and, with the exception of Ryan Jones, they never tend to lose too many players in the back row, and in Jerry Collins and Marty Holah they have two seriously consistent performers," said Jennings.

"Collins is a big ball-carrying threat and a strong defender, while Holah does an awful lot of work at the breakdown. "You know you're in a real battle against them."

What areas of improvement are there from a Blues perspective coming off the Dragons win?

"We were pleased to get the win and delighted to get the bonus point", said the 29-year-old.

"You'd expect teams to be a bit rusty after a two-week break and we played in fits and starts at times.

"Our lineout didn't go as well as we wanted it to. We've to concentrate on putting in a stronger set-piece and our scrum has got to be better.

"The goal for us is to continually rectify things week by week because we know that there are major challenges coming up.

"We're facing into three away games on the bounce, the third of which is the Heineken Cup game away in Clermont Auvergne, so we know that we need to build up momentum over the coming weeks."

The return of several experienced heads in recent weeks, he says, has also provided a timely boost for the squad ahead of a hectic Christmas period.

"There's nothing worse than being injured and out of the week to week games," added Jennings. "Players like Shaun (Berne) have been working really hard on their rehabilitation over the last few months and it would have been a difficult time for him.

"It was great to see Ed O'Donoghue coming back last weekend while Trev (Hogan) has had a really unfortunate time of it over the last while.

"Leo is just Leo! He's our captain and a real leader so with the three lads there's great competition in the second row, which is important because you need as many of the players as fit as possible.

"It's a nice environment for the players to come into because we're winning at the moment and playing well. So it's up to us to maintain that consistency on Sunday."


He has been impressed by the new management structure in the club, citing the continuity of the likes of forwards coach Jono Gibbes allied to the freshness of head coach Joe Schmidt's influence in a relatively short space of time.

"We're very fortunate to have coaches of this knowledge and experience to bounce ideas off and I think the players have responded really positively to the new coaching set-up so far", he says.

"There are new ideas and plans in place and everyone realises the opportunities that await if we can follow through on them."

The management of playing personnel over the coming weeks will be a massive undertaking, particularly given the close proximity of a double trip to Wales over the next week.

"It's a simple fact that players cannot expect to play every week and the break this year was that bit shorter, with two weekends off rather than the usual four, so you have to plan accordingly.

"When it comes down to big games every week, we have to make sure we prepare and rest accordingly because Christmas is a massive period in the calendar.

"Come the end of January there's another break before the action kicks off again in February. The season is broken into blocks and we're determined to continue where we left off. Last weekend's win was a good start, but we have to approach each test on an individual basis."

On the Ospreys themselves, Jennings speaks with respect about their strength in depth. He cast more than an interested eye at their recent 46-13 LV= Cup victory over the Tigers and was impressed by what he saw.

"We're under no illusions that Sunday will be a real test for us. They're a squad with a lot of talent and they have a good balance of youth and experience across their side.

"From our perspective this game presents an opportunity for us to get up the table if we can do the business. That's incentive enough for us to approach this game in a positive frame of mind."