Friday 17 November 2017

Ruddock: We need to win all our games to keep home fires burning

Leinster's Rhys Ruddock
Leinster's Rhys Ruddock
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The change of focus has, Rhys Ruddock agrees, proven difficult.

In the past, Leinster have managed to juggle their European aspirations with their domestic duties with some success, but after the defeat to Toulon, they stuttered again in Wales last weekend.

The Ospreys, who like to raise a gallop when Leinster come into view, stumped them again, meaning Matt O'Connor's men are reaching for a little traction just now.

However, with three games remaining Leinster are still in control of their Pro12 fate and can take a massive step towards a home semi-final with a win against Treviso in the RDS tonight (5.00pm).

"It is difficult (to change focus) – you often see teams who do well in the Heineken Cup, it is easy to rest on your laurels, and then maybe not perform the following week," said flanker Ruddock.

"We have definitely got better at that over the years. It is a strong point that we pride ourselves on. It is a different sort of scenario when you come off the back of a loss. That game was energy-sapping and takes a lot out of you mentally.

"But there is a massive opportunity. There is pressure, but that is good for us at this time of the season."

The top-four permutations are mind-boggling. Ulster face the most difficult run-in of the contenders, starting with a trip to face a Glasgow side who with a game in hand are also very much in the reckoning.

Munster's run-in could be heavily influenced by how they get on against Toulon on Sunday week, while the Ospreys kept their chances alive with last week's win.

Leinster have never lost at home to Italian opposition. And that's unlikely to happen here in front of what should be a bumper crowd who can avail of the Good Friday dispensation granted to the RDS, with the bars open until an hour after the game.

O'Connor has made two changes in the backs as he brings in the old and the new in Brian O'Driscoll and Darragh Fanning. Gordon D'Arcy's brief return to the No 13 shirt comes to an end as he and Dave Kearney make way.

In the pack, Mike McCarthy starts in place of Leo Cullen, while Ruddock and Jordi Murphy come in for Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings. There's no place in the squad for the luckless Luke Fitzgerald, who continues to struggle with groin trouble

Leinster only escaped from Italy with a point to spare when the sides met earlier in the season; the visitors include former Blues player Matt Berquist at 10.

O'Connor warned that his side could be in for another difficult game is they are off-key.

"If you get it wrong and you're not actually at your best, you won't get the results and that's the lesson the guys have to learn," O'Connor said.

"The group will only achieve what the significant leaders in the group want to achieve. They are the guys who drive it. They are the guys who determine whether we win or lose."

But with each game vital from now until the end of the season, Ruddock is sure Leinster will be at their best.

"The fact that this is all we have to play, for the rest of the season for us, means it is knockout football," he said.

"We like to think that is what we live for, that's what we play for is that knockout rugby. We have to win every game to stay at the top of the league, to be certain of a home semi-final, a home final. It is all you can ask for really."

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster – R Kearney; Z Kirchner, B O'Driscoll, N Reid, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; C Healy, S Cronin, M Moore; D Toner, M McCarthy; R Ruddock, J Murphy, J Heaslip capt. Reps: R Strauss, J McGrath, M Bent, T Denton, D Ryan, L McGrath, I Madigan, B Macken

Treviso – L McLean; L Nitoglia, M Campagnaro, C Loamanu, A Esposito; M Berquist, T Botes; M Muccignat, L Ghiraldini capt, L Cittadini; M Fuser, V Bernabo; M Filippucci, P Derbyshire, R Barbieri. Reps: G Maistri, I Fernandez-Rouyet, P Di Santo, A Pavanello, D Budd, F Semenzato, J Ambrosini, B Williams

Ref – S Paterson (SRU)


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