Sunday 18 August 2019

Byrne's performance should be worth the Aviva ticket price alone

Leinster's Ross Byrne. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Leinster's Ross Byrne. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Victor Costello

Away wins in the Champions Cup never come easy and as entertaining as it was to watch Leinster demolish Northampton at Franklin's Gardens, it's important not to lose sight of how vital that victory was.

The injury toll was costly but with Leinster's strength in depth, they have to go for maximum points at home tomorrow. Rory O'Loughlin, Ross Byrne and Adam Byrne got valuable experience with a victory in one of European rugby's oldest grounds and that will stand to them going forward.

Return fixtures are always potential banana skins with the losing team demanding a response from each other.

Unfortunately, English sides don't switch off like the French do. Northampton's performance last week was inadequate even by their own current low standards and their purple patch in the middle part of the game was marred by Dylan Hartley's swinging right arm.

Northampton are clearly in disarray but strangely enough their current troubles can galvanise them if even for one match only. They still have quality players but their management have been inept for too long now. Hartley's ill-discipline was a clear indication of what Northampton were trying to do to Leinster - stop Seán O'Brien and the other ball carriers and somehow get to Joey Carbery.

With the home side struggling to do both, Hartley decided to take matters into his own hands and disrespect his international and club coaches and his team-mates. Unfortunately for Leinster, Northampton will be better without him tomorrow night.

With back-to-back fixtures the team that can park the previous game quicker will always win the next one. For Leinster, they will be aware of their sins in 2013 when they let a valuable away win in the first round away to Northampton pale into insignificance by losing the home fixture.

At that time the mindset of both teams were different. Leinster were struggling to find consistent form and Northampton were furious with coughing up tries at home and blamed everybody but themselves.

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These days Leinster have more strength in depth and are less reliant on their star players. Northampton have the opposite and their flagship players are under-performing for their club but not their country which will always cause resentment in the day job.

Dominant

The Aviva Stadium will hold no fear for Northampton as they are a resilient, proud side. They can attempt to address their scrum problems where Leinster were dominant but they and their international colleagues are unlikely to budge the world-class Irish front-row group.

Of course the Leinster squad will need to continue their aggressive pursuit of a home quarter-final but, as fans, it is a nice feeling to sit back and watch the introduction of Ross Byrne as a starting out-half.

Byrne is a physical out-half and a totally different type of player to the recently successful and unfortunately injured Joey Carbery.

He has a good kicking game which we saw last week and ,like Carbery, is part of a group of players that push hard for selection in this squad. For Ross Byrne, there comes an opportunity this week that he may not have seen in the distance while sitting as a possible fourth choice some weeks ago. His display will be worth the ticket price alone .

Across the board we are seeing the benefits of having a large squad. Every player wants to be part of a winning team and ultimately can go into a game with a view of maximising their performance in game time no matter the opposition.

Leinster's strength in depth also allows time for the players to rehab so the normal injury attrition doesn't take its usual toll on the squad.

We can cautiously expect the same again from Leinster and in my mind there is no doubt that Northampton are going to be put to the sword again tomorrow night. A night ahead to enjoy for both Leinster fans and players.

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