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Rhys Ruddock: We must get the edge on 'Quins


 Rhys Ruddock

Rhys Ruddock

Rhys Ruddock

It is a twin-track approach Leinster are chasing in The Champions Cup on Saturday night - the performance and the points.

As it stands, Leinster are three points off Harlequins in Pool Two in what is turning into a testing time, especially with a resurgent Wasps still in the hunt for qualification, tucked up two behind the province.

The set-piece scrum and discipline must be transformed against 'Quins or the trapdoor will open down beneath their feet.

While some have been floundering, Rhys Ruddock has been flourishing this season.

He is one man that wasn't outmuscled at The Stoop.

There is no time in his mind for personal vindication when points are lost and Leinster's European odyssey hangs in the balance.

"I feel we probably underperformed on the weekend, set-piece we probably weren't as effective as we set out to be," reviewed Ruddock.

"If we can improve our scrum this weekend and get some quality launch to attack from, I think it will make a big difference to the way the backs are able to play and the way the forwards are able to get into the game.

"It's a lot easier when you're getting gain-line to move the ball quickly from the breakdown.

"If you're on the back foot, it becomes a lot more difficult to have any real impact in that area and to get people away quick, speed the ball up and then in turn get over the gain-line again.

"So I think a huge focus for the pack has to be set-piece this week," he said.

The six-day turnaround does not leave much time for scrum coach Marcu Caputo to flog his forwards.

Nor should he.

The brains trust is intact. Ireland's Mike Ross is a survivor, a self-confessed scrum nerd and Jack McGrath is a man on a mission to repay the faith placed in him.

There is plenty of Harlequins meat that has to be moved under the Saturday night lights.

If there is one thing English props can do, it is scrummage.

Their Director of Rugby Conor O'Shea does not have the financial muscle to compete with Northampton Saints, Saracens and Leicester Tigers on an equal footing.

The former Ireland full-back has always looked to develop from within since taking over at Harlequins back in March 2010.


Now, Leinster know their captain Joe Marler and tight-heads Will Collier and Kyle Sinckler demand respect.

Hooker Richardt Strauss is battling the clock to be ready.

If he isn't, Caputo will have his third choice front row on the bench for cover.

And only Tadhg Furlong got a miserly four minutes from there at The Stoop.

"They obviously pose a number of difficulties at scrum time and they won the battle on the weekend," acknowledged Ruddock.

"It's more about technically getting things right and we've already put the foundations in.

"I suppose the real benefits will come when we get back on the field and the two packs go head-to-head and we try to scrummage as Harlequins did at the weekend."

Leinster also have to get on, and stay on, the right side of referee Romain Poite, whose handling of the 2012 Magners League final still rankles in home quarters.

The last thing Leinster would want to do is get on the wrong side of the Frenchman.

"I think the discipline thing is huge," voiced Ruddock.

"They probably had a lot of confidence knowing that we were giving away penalties at scrum-time, giving them penalties at the break-down.

"Giving them opportunities to put pressure on us and I suppose they were probably right to go to the corner and really try to capitalise and put pressure on us in our end of the field.

"I think if we can limit the penalties that we're giving away I'd be confident in our ability to defend them."

Sure, there are other creases that need to be ironed out.

The absence of Seán O'Brien and Shane Jennings denies Leinster a truly consistent presence on the floor.

Ruddock, Dominic Ryan and Jordi Muphy all possess varied and admirable attributes.

All are multi-purpose back row forwards rather than specialists in the mould of an out-and-out openside, like Keith Gleeson.

Therefore, the breakdown becomes a team mission, a collective responsibility, for ruck accuracy when the ball is theirs and poach accuracy or just plainnuisance value when it isn't.

Ian Madigan suggested that cynicism played a part in Leinster's trickle-back effect from the breakdown in round three.

Ruddock did not agree: "I think teams will always try to target our breakdown and do what they can to put pressure on us in that area, slow us down.

"I don't think that's any reason for our defeat on the weekend," he imparted.


"I don't think they did it more than any other team so our focus has to be on ourselves and some key areas we have to improve on this weekend."

Anyway, cynicism at the breakdown and in every other element of the game is a core elements of the profession.

It is a simple truth. You can't win trophies without cheating whether it is blocking runners, taking men in the air, high-tackles, ruck illegality, scrum criminality or lineout interference.

Cheating is only so when you-re caught.

It is a large part of what they call gaining experience, learning when to bend the rules, knowing what you can get away with.

It is all about finding the razor's edge for your club.