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Blues boost cause


FIRST thing's first. Leinster moved to the head of the PRO12 League on a weekend when three of the top five lost to illustrate the competitive nature of the competition.

Munster slipped up away to the Scarlets (18-13), the Ospreys away to Edinburgh (31-25) and Glasgow Warriors away to Leinster (28-25) in Dublin.

Leinster lead the league by one point. It didn't come easy against Glasgow Warriors. It rarely does with Gregor Townsend, the thoughtful and tactical former Scotland fly-half, coaching as he played – with panache.

"We've got the opportunity to control our destiny," said Leinster coach Matt O'Connor.

"That's always a better place to be than the alternative."

There is a list of temptations for Ireland coach Joe Schmidt ahead of Italy's appearance at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, where a big win is not only desirable, but necessary.

O'Connor was not shy about giving his opinion on where Marty Moore and Rhys Ruddock stood in his estimation.

The fact that Mike Ross was the only member of the Ireland 15 from Twickenham to be released to his club points very sharply in the direction of Moore making the first start for his country.

"Yeah, he was the only one, so I was a little bit surprised," said O'Connor.

The added evidence of Moore coming off on just 50 minutes after a powerful scrummaging input was backed up by the difficulties Ross encountered there.

"That was a pre-arranged scenario. Marty's pushing all the time. He's getting better and better," said O'Connor.

The Leinster coach did not hesitate when asked about how Ruddock has put two seasons of injury behind him to show the level of performance to oust the unfortunate Kevin McLaughlin.

"He is certainly in the Irish set-up as the next best six," he put forward.

"Rhys has been exceptional for us since Christmas onwards. If there was an issue with O'Mahony, I would be surprised if Rhys didn't get the opportunity.

"He's just been very consistent for us. He carries the ball. He's a great lineout option and he's got a massive work rate.

"His impacts on the game are becoming greater and greater, which is a big part of that six role."


The former Ireland U20 skipper has made a habit out of wearing the captain's armband throughout his career, not for what he says, but what he does.

"He's not a massive vocal presence. He goes about what he does. He's a great professional. His individual standards are very high and he drags the rest of them along through that."

O'Connor is "not necessarily surprised" that Paddy Jackson has overtaken Ian Madigan in Schmidt's international pecking order at out-half.

"The ability to kick goals like he does and the threat that he is ball-in-hand gives you the ability to play a certain way," responded O'Connor.

"It is probably very similar to what Jonny (Sexton) does and, maybe, the thinking is that it is a change-up in relation to what Paddy offers relative to what Jonny offers."

Sadly, Luke Fitzgerald pulled out late because of "referred pain" from his abdominal strain, with Leinster's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Toulon his most logical target rather than the Six Nations.