Friday 25 May 2018

European pain is bearable when it's all about Pro12

Wasps 51-10 Leinster

Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
David Kelly

David Kelly

The danger of analysing any perceived humiliation is that one can analyse it a little too closely.

Much of it depends upon who's doing the humiliating. Wasps didn't do it. They were just in the business of taking care of their own business.

Leinster will not feel humiliated. For sure, if their handsomely paid and cosseted professionals have any pride - and they have quite a lot, even if they are not all evenly dappled with the same talent - it will be hurting.

This was a record defeat in Europe, and you have to go back to the Wild West professionalism days of 1998 to find the last time Leinster had such a hapless day in the office.

But humiliation? To the disparate handfuls of supporters who had to suffer the carps and catcalls from the gleeful home fans, perhaps; but then, what would their expectation have been in the context of the occasion?

Perhaps, they might answer, the opposite of humiliation.


Perhaps, they might point out, the merest hint of a reminder of what had occurred seven days earlier in the RDS against another quarter-final chasing side from the English Premiership.

Or, we might add, what is guaranteed to happen next Friday when another radically altered Leinster line-up - this one had 11 changes, next week will probably feature double-digit alterations - will head to Gwent and collect another four Pro12 league points.

It's all about context, you see.

And, given where Leinster are at this moment in time, and who ultimately pays their coach's wages and those of their 17 2016 Six Nations squad members, it was always difficult to cast this particular fixture in any.

Context, that is.

Had anyone truly believed that there was a purpose in spending a large amount of money to go to this game, instead checked into this space two days ago, they would have been reminded that there wasn't any.

Purpose, that is.

"The rather unsexier fixture against Dragons next Friday is much more important than today's encounter; for Wasps, their focus is unswerving."

And more. "Wasps have a purpose; Leinster seemed to have one last week with so much youthful brio. Hard to see what their motivation is for this one, though."

Any Billy with half a brain would have been better minded to lump on the handicap and save their money for a more meaningful European campaign next term, foregoing the admittedly touristic pleasure of Coventry in January.

Leinster will not feel any humiliation about Saturday once they can guarantee that the work they did the previous weekend and the four points they should achieve next Friday contribute to the resuscitation of this proud club.

Humiliation is an emotive feeling and one usually bestowed by outsiders - grumpy, fleeced fans or grumpier, pouting pundits. It is an instant, reactive emotion and will only persist if the target's self-esteem and self-worth is already, or is plunging rapidly towards, the floor.

After all, humiliation derives from humble and the Latin, humus - on the ground. Leinster, soaring last weekend with expectation - much of it shovelled in from outside the camp - were, peremptorily, grounded on Saturday.

Lasting damage to reputation should not ensue because the stakes will be different from now until the end of the season. The Pro12 will now define their future.

For all the fine talk during the week, the fact that there was nothing at stake meant Leinster played like a team for whom nothing was at stake. This is when sport dies a little, and it did on Saturday.

True, they began by deploying the unexpected to such thrilling fashion but even that was actually quite expected, really.

It is easy to abandon the script when one isn't convinced by the storyline; improvisation only works if you know all the lines and are committed to them.

Leinster weren't, which is why they failed to punch holes through the middle before going wide and utterly condemned themselves to repeated defeat at the ruck and maul.

They were half-hearted - a bit like the selection. Players take their lead from the circumstances that surround them and the context in which things are placed in front of them.

Effectively, although nobody will ever say it in public, they knew nothing was on the line. Confidence drips like snow melting off a gate in circumstances such as these.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen insists his side will need to move on. Saturday, and Europe this season, is consigned to history - but will not define them. What happens next will.

Wasps - C Piutau; J Bassett, E Daly (R Miller 66), B Macken, F Halai; J Gopperth (R Jackson 66), J Simpson (D Robson 3); M Mullan (T Bristow 66), E Shervington (A Johnson '62), L Cittadini (J Cooper-Woolley 62); J Launchbury (J Gaskell 62), B Davies, J Haskell, G Smith, S Jones (N Hughes 62).

Leinster - R Kearney; Z Kirchner, L Fitzgerald, N Reid (Ben Te'o 62), D Kearney; J Sexton, E Reddan(I Boss 76); Jack McGrath (M Bent 57), S Cronin (R Strauss 53), M Moore (P Dooley 62); D Toner, R Ruddock; D Ryan, J Murphy (J van der Flier 45), J Heaslip.

Ref - M Raynal (France).

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