Monday 26 August 2019

Big games require big-game players and Leinster have those in abundance

Leinster's Devin Toner takes the ball in the lineout against Ulster's Iain Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's Devin Toner takes the ball in the lineout against Ulster's Iain Henderson. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

Leinster did what was needed to be done last weekend against a Treviso side who were already on their holidays.

Irish rugby got a boost with Munster qualifying for the Champions Cup, and with Ulster, Connacht and Leinster in with a chance of winning the Pro12, there is optimism at the end of a disappointing season.

Of all the heartbreak Leinster have suffered this year, the hammering by Ulster at the Kingspan would have hurt the most, and the benefit of the soul searching that followed can be viewed next week at the RDS.

Johnny Sexton and Rob Kearney will have an extra week to rehab their injuries while all the provinces sit in penance watching the Champions Cup final tomorrow.

The neutrals in the country will support Connacht in their quest this season and it would take a stone heart to not wish our Western neighbours silverware this season - the players to a man deserve it.

The very fact that there is passion and heart will make Connacht hard to beat.

For Leinster it's about being professional and playing to their capability and experience. They have been here before and will be here again and know that now is the time to stamp out future regrets.

Under Les Kiss, Ulster's defence has improved, so Sexton will have to activate his kicking game, which was ineffective the last day. If Sexton is ruled out, Ian Madigan must do the same.

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Ulster No 10 Paddy Jackson cannot produce the same performance away from home and will not be comfortable in the RDS.

With Devin Toner the tallest and most athletic second-row in the league, he needs to be put in the air in every Ulster lineout, which will put Rory Best's darts under pressure.

In the scrum, same again. It is very hard to tell or ask a front-row to adapt or change tack for a game but you can be sure that the Ulster scrum will come second best next week, which leads me on to my next point.

Ruan Pienaar needs to be marshalled well by Leinster and a retreating scrum and under-performing lineout from Ulster should be a good start. In terms of selection, Eoin Reddan's experience will be needed at No 9 to slow Pienaar down

Defensively Leinster seem to have slipped off a little and Kurt McQuilkin will be aware that this is a mindset adjustment as opposed to a training park restructure.

Leinster will need to balance hard work and preparation with a calm temperament.

Discipline let them down last time and keeping 15 players on the pitch at all times is a small ask with great rewards.

Big games always need big game players of which Leinster have an abundant supply and as always selection will depend on injuries and form in training.

Competition for places drives the best out of the match-day 23.


Leo Cullen's success this season depends on the next couple of weeks and for a coach who has held his counsel with the media though victory and failure, he will need to motivate his troops in the dressing-room pre-match as he did as a captain for years.

Crowd participation is vital next Friday at the RDS. A season of discontent is tiring for supporters but the sight of the white jersey should encourage even the most doubtful fan.

The future is still bright in Leinster but losing this game will create a long summer of doubt. History and statistics will favour Leinster at home but entering the RDS the players will need to get down to business and walk the walk.

Ulster will be wary of past times in Dublin 4 and need to be reminded of such. Ulster are not the team they think they are and Leinster are not the team they should be. . . yet.

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