Wednesday 17 January 2018

Dempsey wants a winning start

Isa Nacewa goes through his paces during a Leinster training session at UCD this week ahead of tonight’s Pro12 opener against Edinburgh
Isa Nacewa goes through his paces during a Leinster training session at UCD this week ahead of tonight’s Pro12 opener against Edinburgh
Leinster's backs coach Girvan Dempsey during squad training
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster backs coach Girvan Dempsey has stressed the importance of starting the Pro12 campaign with a win in Edinburgh this evening to build a winning mentality for the season.

Leinster began last year with a defeat in Scotland (Glasgow) which set the tone for a disappointing season but under the new coaching ticket, there is a renewed sense of confidence in Dublin 4.

Pre-season wins against Ulster and Moseley have heightened self-belief but Dempsey is cautious about reading too much into recent results.

"It (winning) is important. You are trying to build the confidence in the players," he said. "It's not the be-all and end-all in the pre-season games. It is trying to get the team cohesive and understanding the coach's philosophy, how he wants to set the team up and how we want to play.

"In the two pre-season games, firstly against Ulster and against Moseley, we were focusing on ourselves, a new coaching team, trying to implement some of our systems defensively and attack-wise.

"Now, coming into the league stage, it (winning) is massively important. We're fortunate the way the season is structured.

"We've got two games, this weekend against Edinburgh and then Cardiff at home. Then, there is a two-week break.

"We're given the opportunity to sit back, assess and re-evaluate where we're at. We're targeting those first two games initially.

"The game against Edinburgh is a huge start. They have five players back from the Scotland squad. They're a very strong team. They've been together a lot and their coach is very astute.

"They had a fine win against Ulster last weekend.

"Then, we have the home game against Cardiff a week later. Then, we'll look where we are and plan for the next game. That is where we are targeting at this moment in time.

Given that the available Leinster squad largely consists of academy players who Dempsey has coached for the 'A' side in recent seasons, the transition to his new role as backs coach has been made easier.

The former Ireland full-back will continue as backs coach until the end of the World Cup and he said he isn't looking beyond that for now.

"I would know the vast majority of the players. The fringe senior players that have come in and out of the team, I would know all of them," he pointed out.

"It certainly has made it easier, through the B&I Cup, particularly, as head coach for the last three or four seasons.

"I know how the players play and what their ideas are and how they want to play the game. It feeds into my philosophy on how the game should be played at the moment.

"We've got that through our pre-season. We're pleased with how that finished up. Now, we're into the competition phase. These next two games are leading on.

"My focus is purely on now to the end of October. During that period, we will sit down and reassess where we are as a coaching team, as a group, with coaches and players."

Despite a comfortable 68-0 win against Moseley last Friday, Dempsey believes that there is still room for improvement.

"You look at the first half. There were elements of that we certainly weren't happy with. We reviewed it. We highlighted certain areas," he said.

"In the second half, we were pleased at the tempo and the pace which we played at."

Irish Independent

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