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Gopperth has time to enhance reputation

When Matt O'Connor pointed his finger at the gathered media last week, it was in response to a perceived misunderstanding about what the game is all about.

It is, first and last, about winning.

For instance, Joe Schmidt's Ireland were in no way pleasing to the eye in November.

They swept clean South Africa, Georgia and Australia and they did it by exploiting the weaknesses each country presented to Schmidt.

That was good enough for everyone.

Why? Because we know our place at the international table. We will take a 'W' over The Springboks and The Wallabies any way we can get it.

It was cautious, clinical, surgical, winning rugby, a far cry from Schmidt's all-court impression at Leinster.

Why? Ireland do not have Brian O'Driscoll or Isa Nacewa at the back. At present, they do not have Seán O'Brien or Cian Healy up the front.

What Ireland does have is two world-class half backs in Conor Murray and Jonathan Sexton that define the word control.


What did Schmidt do? He played to the advantage he had over the southern hemisphere powerhouses?

It is a rule of thumb held by O'Connor too.

As he made a strong, passionate defence of his rugby outlook last week, he arrived at his fundamental starting point for any game.

"Our philosophy is finding a competitive advantage against the opposition to win the game.

"That's our style of rugby," he said.

"We've got a Test pack. What's your competitive advantage? That's the game," asserted O'Connor last Friday.

Leinster's failure was in identifying their advantage and not taking advantage of it.

Last season, Leinster won the PRO12 League final and bowed out of the then Heineken Cup at the quarter-final post at the almost unbeatable Toulon - at least at Stade Felix Mayol.


Four months and a truck-load of injuries into this season, O'Connor (inset) is feeling the heat for Leinster's unimpressive form, though they have scored the most tries in the PRO12 League.

As always, it is in Europe where the court of public opinion really resides.

Leinster have been dogmatic in winning two from three, joining Castres Olympique as the only two clubs from 20 in The Champions Cup with as low as three tries from three rounds.

The two main men taking most hostility are O'Connor and fly-half Jimmy Gopperth, on his way back to England at the end of the season.

It was only this week that Leinster's assistant coach Richie Murphy considered the "possibility" that this could have something to do with the fact that he is an overseas recruit.

For every Isa Nacewa, Felipe Contepomi, Rocky Elsom or Nathan Hines, there is an Eddie Hekenui, Juan Gomez, Mat Berquist or Andrew Goodman.

Gopperth (far left) has been a distance better than most Leinster signings, a length off the best. So far.