Tuesday 12 December 2017

Victor Costello: Everything is in place for Leinster to go on and finish the season with silverware

Dominic Ryan bids farewell to the Leinster faithful after the win over Glasgow
STEPHEN MCCARTHY/SPORTSFILE
Dominic Ryan bids farewell to the Leinster faithful after the win over Glasgow STEPHEN MCCARTHY/SPORTSFILE

Victor Costello

The lights went out in many ways last Friday night for some of the Leinster players who most likely played their last game for the province.

Mike Ross got his deserved standing ovation and unfortunately through injury, Dominic Ryan limped off after giving another bone-crushing display.

This electrical failure happened once before in the club's modern history - 2001 away in Newport but that time the delay benefited Leinster as it disrupted the home side's purple patch.

Last Friday it simply paused play enough for a time of reflection for both fans and players during a game, as opposed to after the final whistle.

With the home semi-final in the bag, the term 'dead rubber' has been bandied about. For those teams that are less focused and running down the seasonal clock, you'll always get players who have their summer holidays booked and are ready to clean the slate for next year.

But for Leinster, there is silverware to be won and the so far successful season needs to stamped into the annals of history.

Furthermore, the success and progression of the younger players onto the international stage can be increased on the low-key Ireland tour of Japan and the USA this summer.

Ulster have been poor this season and by their own high standards, they have failed in the big games for the last few years. They have lost their edge and grit up front as the South African influence diminishes.

The loss of Ruan Pienaar is catastrophic, as his influence on the province has been immeasurable. Apart from being a big-game player and match winner himself, he has had an impact on the Irish internationals he has played with over the years, particularly Paddy Jackson.

This slip-up goes against the grain of a province which has been very astute with their dealings with the IRFU since professionalism begun.

Les Kiss has done a formidable job for the province but he needs more brand-name players and leaders on the pitch instead of more coaches.

Nevertheless the Kingspan crowd will make it a hostile venue for Leinster. Last season Leo Cullen's men capitulated up there and then thrived against Ulster in the RDS a few weeks later.

But that was last season, that was when Leinster were inconsistent. This season is different.

Cast your mind back to that game in Belfast - it was the senior players who let Leinster down. This season it will be the senior players who will win the silverware.

There is an abundance of household names, and so far it has been a successful season, but to get across the line, the mix has to be right.

Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip's unavailability for the rest of the season is all part of the modern game.

But after all the excuses given to the media in the aftermath of the Clermont game, there is no doubt that the management will not deny they were missed in the first 30 minutes of that game.

The meteoric ascent of Leinster this season has been admirable for all on board but that 30 minutes will stand to the young players, as will the Montpellier and Castres away games.

Tomorrow's Ulster game will be important for the players to step up in a hostile environment.

Perform

Even though there is nothing in it for Ulster, Leinster have a competition to win, and to do so you have to step out of your comfort zone and perform.

There is unlikely to be another coach in sport to potentially request a shark into his pool and Leo's ability to recognise what Stuart Lancaster could add to Leinster has to be commended.

Lancaster has put structure and discipline in to the club by placing a large emphasis on the development and academy part of Leinster.

This area of any professional club has always got time on its side to evolve but rarely gets the time from a head coach.

The current structure affords the continuous hunger and ambition of its engine room and this group need to be steered to victory this season and next.

Irish Independent

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