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Matt O'Connor in no mood for Leinster critics

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Matt O'Connor has defended his team against criticism

Matt O'Connor has defended his team against criticism

Matt O'Connor has defended his team against criticism

Talk about turning the tables.

"Just a question for you blokes, how do you guys categorise form?" asked Leinster coach Matt O'Connor.

"Is it winning games? Is it scoring tries? We've scored the most tries in the League.

"I'm asking the question. What's form to you blokes? Because you ask about it a lot."

It was the beginning one of those rare moments in media briefings when a coach, clearly dissatisfied with the imbalance of what has been written in recent weeks, decided he had had enough. It was time for accountability, not just from his side of the table.

The Australian was in the mood for a bit of a barney. There was undoubted passion. There was clear logic to his arguments.

"The five seasons I was at Leicester we scored the most tries in The Premiership hands down in four of those years. I want to play with the ball in hand," he offered.

This is the ideal rugby world O'Connor would inhabit. But the ideal doesn't cut it in the real rugby world.

"Our philosophy is finding a competitive advantage against the opposition to win the game. That's our style of rugby."

Like Michael Cheika and Joe Schmidt, O'Connor has encountered issues with injury and the IRFU's Player Welfare Programme.

"The biggest issue here, and it's been well documented, is that you're changing 10 blokes every week, so that competitive advantage changes every week.

"It's absolutely flawed to have a philosophy of rugby when you have that turnover of bodies."

Are we spoiled in this country by how good we've had it recently compared to our long, under-achievement through the pre-professional history of the game?

There have been six European Cups since 1999.

There was the Grand Slam in 2009; the Six Nations Championship in 2014. It is a time of great health.

With winning comes expectation. With winning in style come even greater expectations?

Can we have our cake and eat it? "You can afford to, you see," he said.

"Because I can tell you who the first blokes will be to jump up and down if we don't win!

"I'm looking at most of them - fact," he said to the assembled media.

"It's all about coming up with a plan for this group of blokes to beat the guys on the other side of the line this week.

"That's the end of the game, that's it. That's what we do.

"Did Ireland do it in November? 100%. Are we trying to do that every week? 100%.

"I think there needs to be an understanding of the dynamics of the modern game.

"The philosophical sit down and write how we'd all like to be brilliant, but that's not reality of professional sport."

Leinster is not Munster. Just as Ulster is not Connacht. There was a Leinster Way.

There was a time when the flash got supporters out of their seats, but not major trophies in the cabinet.

"Five or six years ago, Leinster were playing a tremendous of rugby, slinging the ball around, a fantastic brand of rugby," said O'Connor.

"What were the press saying then? Ladyboys. Soft.

"We've got a test pack that will go out on Sunday. What's your competitive advantage relative to the opposition?

"That's the game."


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