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Kirchner: Leinster focus is for push on Pro12


Zane Kirchner

Zane Kirchner

Zane Kirchner

It is a simple skill lost on many, not to those coming out of Blackrock College.

When you recall Brian O'Driscoll on the move, Ian Madigan in the groove or even Jordi Murphy on the charge, it is usually with the ball secured in both hands, surveying the landscape of options around them.

South Africa international Zane Kirchner sees the same respect for the ball from Leinster's new kid on the block Garry Ringrose.

"As everybody knows he's one for the future, and being called up into the Irish squad just shows the quality of him" he said.

"He's been carrying the ball in both hands and that probably makes it much more difficult for defenders to pick up whether he's going to pass or keep hold of the ball."

The basics of the game are pushed at Ireland's finest nursery where an 'old school' foundation is built into the rugby programme by a top-class team of coaches.

When you have the catch and pass credentials planted in muscle memory, there is room for the extra touches that bridge the gap from schoolboy hero to full-time professional.

Essentially, Kirchner was first employed as a dual-purpose signing to better Leinster's chances in the Champions Cup and as a father-figure guide to keep the home fires of the PRO12 League burning when the international windows opened.

Kirchner's inclusion in the Springboks World Cup campaign took him away for what promised to be an unforgettable experience.

Then, Japan happened to South Africa. They recovered from there to make the semi-finals, Ireland's original goal.

On a personal level, the tournament does not exactly bring back fond memories for the former Blue Bull.

It is best to say he was used sparingly in behind first choice full-back Willie le Roux.

Back at Leinster, the magic of European rugby vanished within four rounds to leave accusations made about the inability of the Irish provinces to compete in a changing financial climate.

The return to full-back for Kirchner against Munster was more welcome than the memory of what happened there last season.

"I think for us as a group, the most important thing going into that game, coming from last year and having all those regrets and bad feelings about what we experienced down there last year, was that we won."

It has taken time for the Christmas festive spirit to seep through to Kirchner given his South African origins, the contrast in climate and culture.

"I think, from a couple of weeks ago, with the wins and the way we won them, that was probably so much more enjoyable, especially for me, being from South Africa.

"Most of the people are on Christmas breaks, and New Year's breaks.

"To have a festival like that over the past few weeks was quite enjoyable for myself."

Now, the glamour of Europe has been whipped out from under the feet of the club in record time to make the PRO12 essential reading from here to the Grand Final on May 28th at Murrayfield.

"Obviously, we're professional rugby players and we want to be successful," he offered.

"You want to play in the top competitions and you want to do well.

"Not being a part of the rest of the competition in Europe, that is a big setback.

"But then, we do have a lot to focus on in the league."

Leinster have been able to cope with the interruption of 20 players taken away to the World Cup to report back to coach Leo Cullen with eight wins from ten rounds.

Latterly, there have been half-a-dozen wins in a time of transition to a new system with a completely new coaching ticket.

There are those who still foolishly look beyond the fruits of the PRO12 as a means of earning a better seeding, thereby a more manageable Pool in The Champions Cup next season.

"I don't think we're really focusing on our Pool for next year," countered Kirchner.

"It's about ending strong in this year's PRO12 league.

"I think our focus is on how we can compete this season and then next season will look after itself.

"Finishing higher will give us an easier Pool, but it's probably better not to focus on this when we're currently busy with our league.

"At the end of the day, whoever we get next season in Europe, or whatever Pool we fall into, that will sort out itself."

For now, Leinster have to put everything into Friday's appointment at The Ospreys to maintain their momentum.