Saturday 18 November 2017

Lancaster: South African teams will prove their worth to PRO14

Leinster Senior Coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Leinster Senior Coach Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster felt the full wrath of the Cheetahs last weekend and while Stuart Lancaster was forced to watch it uncomfortably from his living room, he believes that his side fell into the trap of playing teams in the southern hemisphere, particularly at altitude.

Lancaster returned to Dublin before the defeat in Bloemfontein with a view to preparing Leinster's Lions for this evening's meeting with Edinburgh at the RDS and there has been a concession across the board that they lost the physical battle.

Different

After a dire start to life in the Guinness PRO14, the Cheetahs proved that they are a different animal on their home patch.

Leinster will not be the last team this season to be shown up by the South African outfit and Lancaster insists that their introduction along with the Southern Kings will bear fruit for the competition.

"The conference structure in Super Rugby grew to a point where it became quite difficult to understand who was where," Lancaster said of his concerns about over-expansion.

"Certainly, the South African teams will be a positive addition.

"When I spoke to the players before we left for South Africa, less than half had been there, including the Irish internationals.

"If you speak to South African teams, they are 100pc behind it. They see it as an easier travel and they respect the quality of the northern hemisphere.

"I could see the improvement The Cheetahs had made in two weeks defensively. In the northern hemisphere, you don't get away with the things you do in the southern hemisphere.

"From PRO14's point of view, it was probably an opportunity they couldn't miss because the Kings would have disappeared completely.

"My recommendation would be to make sure that the conference system remains clear and competitive for everyone. We have to see who is top of the table and how the play-off system works.

"When it went to the conference system in Super Rugby, and you played some teams, but not others, it struggled. We play every team home and away, some twice, some once. I think that works."

With regard to him Lancaster having to leave Leinster's mini-tour of South Africa early, he admitted that while it was far from ideal, it simply had to be done:

"Someone had to go home at some point because there were so many good players here to get prepped for Edinburgh.

"Some players had to stay in South Africa, fly back Sunday to arrive less than an hour ago (around noon on Monday). We've now got a training session in preparation for Edinburgh.

"Some of the lads, who have must flown in, are playing on Friday. But, they clearly can't train and they have tomorrow off.

"I don't think I was the reason we lost the game. I think the messages I gave before I left were reasonably clear and we didn't pitch up in the first 60 minutes.

"It was a unique scenario where you've got seven or eight key players who were left back.

"The Lions series is once every four years and it's five Leinster players, who were on the Lions tour, who were stood down quite rightly for the start of the season.

"No, I wouldn't see that situation happening again. They were circumstances Leinster inherited rather than created."

Logistics

Leinster will be glad to see the back of South Africa and even though the squad are likely to have grown closer, the messy logistics were a nightmare for the club.

Lancaster also shed light on the incident that saw Cian Healy removed from a plane, adding: "So that was an incident with the stewardess. They are very stringent and insistent on laptops, phones and everything being off.

"Cian was watching the game with his headphones on, missed the call, and she basically said you have ignored my instructions and the captain said we need to stop the flight and that was it really.

"It was avoidable but it certainly wasn't a case of Cian being disrespectful or disruptive."

Irish Independent

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