Saturday 18 November 2017

Jennings open to interpretation as he adjusts to tackle law change

hugh farrelly

THOUGH he has played many times on the blindside flank, Leinster's Shane Jennings resides comfortably under the tag of 'traditional' open-side flanker.

Over the course of eight years of professional rugby, including two seasons with Leicester Tigers, the 28-year-old has forged a reputation as a ground-ball expert with an impressive record of winning breakdown turnovers.

However, those skills have been threatened this season by the IRB diktat which insists that the tackled player must be released before possession can be contested -- a rule which weighs heavily in favour of the attacking team.

The interpretation provoked considerable controversy during the Six Nations and is seen as a threat to the effectiveness of 'groundhog' No 7s such as Jennings.

However, the Leinster open-side says the onus is on players to adapt to the change and, ahead of Friday's Heineken Cup quarter-final clash with French powerhouses Clermont Auvergne at the RDS, he is confident of adjusting his game to suit the new requirements. "I don't see it as a major issue," said Jennings.

"It does take a certain skill out of the game for some No 7s and some centres around the place, but I think if you're there quick enough or early enough on your feet you can still do some damage.

"It's just a matter of being quite disciplined yourself and if you know what you're going into then there's no excuses; you have to respect the laws.

"It takes a while to get used to it because different refs have different interpretations and you've got to understand that. But once they communicate to you, there's no issue; they'll say it to you before the game what they're looking for.

"I think the refs want to see you make the effort to get your hands away but one of the boys came up with a good point: it's not just taking your hands away because if you do that you're going to fall over," he added. "They want to see you keeping your weight on your feet so you're not just falling off your feet."

Leinster go into Friday night's encounter high on confidence after their Good Friday Magners League win over Munster in Thomond Park, but Jennings is mindful of the fact that when they beat Munster 30-0 at the RDS in October, they lost their Heineken Cup opener against London Irish the following week.

"We played well against Munster but it's not good enough playing well against Munster one week and then not getting that consistency in our game.

"I certainly learned a few lessons in that (London Irish) game. We just showed we were off and if you're off, you're going to get shown up.

"It's pretty similar to Clermont. They've got a good pack, a good set-piece, very similar to London Irish. But in fairness, no disrespect to London Irish, Clermont are an awful lot more dangerous in the backs.

"So if we play like we did against London Irish in that home game, we'll come up short. All of us are pretty realistic about what happened the week leading into that London Irish game and what happened last week.

"We know that we have to get good preparation and do our homework on them because if we don't we'll come up short and be out of Europe."

Irish Independent

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