Sunday 15 December 2019

Leinster face 'season defining' two months of opportunity

Leinster may be without several of their first team players but Matt O'Connor is demanding that those that are not on international duty, take their chance ahead of what he described as a
Leinster may be without several of their first team players but Matt O'Connor is demanding that those that are not on international duty, take their chance ahead of what he described as a "season-defining" two months for the province (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE)
Leinster's Ben Te'o during squad training ahead of their Guinness PRO12, Round 8, match away to Benetton Treviso on Sunday. Leinster Rugby Squad Training, Donnybrook Stadium, Dublin (Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster may be without several of their first team players but Matt O'Connor is demanding that those that are not on international duty, take their chance ahead of what he described as a "season-defining" two months for the province.

O'Connor's side make the tricky journey to Treviso on Sunday and he is expecting his young players to make an impression ahead of next week's game with Ospreys before Champions Cup rugby returns with mouth-watering back-to-back clashes with Harlequins.

Prior to the three-week break, Leinster had gone on a four-game winning run following the disappointing defeat to Munster, and the Australian coach maintained that everyone involved in the squad is fully focused on continuing their impressive recent form.

"The next two months could be season-defining. They will determine where we are in the league and where we are in Europe," said O'Connor.

"The squad is in a good place. Hopefully, we can build on the momentum we've created over the last couple of games. The guys are really excited about getting an opportunity to play in the Test windows.

"For a lot of the group, it is an opportunity to play some rugby and stick their hands up for selection."

Treviso have endured a wretched start to the season, losing all seven of their games and picking up just one losing bonus point.

Former Leinster and Old Belvedere No 8 Leo Auva'a is expected to line out against his old team-mates after joining the Italian outfit during the summer.

O'Connor is refusing to read too much into Treviso's poor form, especially given that this time last year when Leinster made the same trip, they escaped with a one-point victory (21-20) thanks to a late Jimmy Gopperth penalty.

"They'll be missing a handful of guys who are away with Italy but it's an awkward place to go. We got away with a one-point win there last year and we had to work for every single point of that," O'Connor said.

Treviso are without a win in their last 12 games, a run which stretches all the way back to April 12, while Leinster have won their last 16 Pro12 meetings with Italian opposition.

"We'll be making sure that we put out a quality performance. That's the key for us. If we can continue to build on the last few good performances in the league and get a good result over there, it probably puts us in a good place leading into the Ospreys and Europe," said O'Connor.

"That's the focus for the last couple of weeks - making sure that we keep working hard and growing our game to put out a quality performance and get the points that we need."

Meanwhile, the province have confirmed that recent signing Ben Te'o took a "limited part in training with his forearm in a cast" this week.

The New Zealander (left), who arrived from rugby league outfit the South Sydney Rabbitohs last month, broke his arm just 19 minutes into his debut against Edinburgh, but O'Connor was keen to point out that Te'o's time out would be spent adjusting to his new surroundings as well as the new code.

"It's incredibly frustrating for him obviously, when he's trying to learn a new code. But it'll give him time to get a better understanding of Dublin and get a better understanding of the game, so there are upsides. He can't wait to get back," he said.

"He had the surgery two weeks ago, so he should be back in about six weeks."

Irish Independent

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