Sunday 19 November 2017

Victor Costello: Ulster are not as good as they think they are - it's time to right some wrongs

Leinster's Devin Toner takes the ball in the lineout against Ulster's Iain Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Devin Toner takes the ball in the lineout against Ulster's Iain Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile

The end being so near and yet so far creates an environment within a squad where the season can be defined by just two more games, which can be a positive or a negative depending on how Leinster handle the pressure this evening.

The long summer ahead can be filled with regrets or filled with hope for the future with the right results, and unfortunately due to the nature of the game everyone is accountable if they don't go the right way.

Ulster spoke during the week about how they respect Leinster and how the comments in an article about how they thought Leo Cullen's side were 'predictable' bear no reflection on what Ulster expect from them at the RDS.

The belief from Ulster was that the article might end up on the Leinster dressing-room wall on this evening is an insult to the home side's motivation for this game.

What we saw from a Leinster perspective a few weeks ago was an ill-prepared outfit walking into the lions' den - fool me once etc.

In fact, luckily for Leinster the only side still talking about that game is Ulster. It has been a long season and two games to finish will always test the mental and physical strength. The thought of playing Ulster once and then possibly again makes the mental game a lot easier.

Starting with Ulster and finishing with last week's article, Ulster are not that good and particularly not good when they play at the RDS.

It has been a while since the 'sold out' sign has dangled from the RDS and this needs to be a reminder to the players of the importance and expectations from the fans and equally a reminder of the role the fans can play in the outcome of this game.

Leinster have learned over the years that crowd support alone is an integral part of their performance but will not be enough, without a high standard of performance.

They can finish in the RDS this season as they mean to start the next and belief in themselves and the players around them will be critical to seeing off the Northerners.

Passion and emotion will be building all this week and the opportunity to right some wrongs does not often come around.

This passion and emotion needs to be controlled and discipline in attack and defence needs to be monitored at all times.

Ulster have deficiencies across the pitch and although Les Kiss explained that he was confident in their set-piece, he might as well have handed his under-confidence in this area on a plate to Leinster.

Ulster's lineout and scrum must be attacked by Leinster in order to inhibit their half-backs. The visitors will probably resort to two opensides in the scrum, which works for Australia but will not work for Ulster in an already weakened pack.

The idea of getting to Johnny Sexton with two opensides is another insult to Sexton's experience. He has shaken off the best of them in the world and it will be hard for the Ulster flankers to leave a retreating scrum.


The fear of losing will always drive a team. Losing to your greatest rival on these isles is unforgivable and the importance of this game will have been brewing all week in training.

Looking back on this season and how Leinster got to this play-off makes quite interesting viewing. They won the Pro12 on points difference and now have the hard work to finish it off.

They have coped with injuries and disruption better than most this season and it takes the old dog for the long road.

Sometimes with the hurt and pain of the highs and lows, players turn to each other and say 'no more'. They owe this victory to those around them and moreover to themselves.

Leinster will rue their lost opportunity in Europe but can still prove they are top of the pile in the Pro12 and in Ireland, and that might just be good enough for this season.

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