Thursday 26 April 2018

'Every game in our pool is going to be difficult' - Noel Reid

Centre knows challenges for Leinster don’t stop this week with a trip to Glasgow where they haven’t won in five years

Noel Reid in action against Nemani Nadolo. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Noel Reid in action against Nemani Nadolo. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Marcus Ó Buachalla

The omens, if you buy into that kind of thing, are not good. You have to go back to November 2012, almost five years, to the last Leinster Rugby win in Scotstoun. Six-nil on a miserably cold winter's evening. But a win is a win. Thankfully, though, Noel Reid doesn't buy into those kinda things.

"No, for me it's not about a stadium or a place. There is no doubt that the crowd really get into the game in Scotstoun and really get behind their team. But that's not why we haven't won there in so long."

What Reid does buy into, is how good this Glasgow Warriors team is.

"If you look at our games there over the last few seasons there have been some really good games between us and I've no doubt that over the next few weekends in the Champions Cup and again in the Guinness PRO14, that the supporters will get two good games so that's what I see when I look at our recent record there.

"We have played a Glasgow team that have been building, have been evolving first under Gregor Townsend and now under Dave Rennie. They have had consistency in their players, have a really strong connection to the area and their supporters.

"And they've had success. You marry all that together and you get a team usually playing well, usually with momentum and it's a very difficult place to go and get a result. But all that credit I think has to go to them. They're an excellent team that we respect hugely."

Noel Reid holds off Jesse Mogg’s challenge during Leinster’s victory over Montpellier. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Noel Reid holds off Jesse Mogg’s challenge during Leinster’s victory over Montpellier. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Reid is talking with experience. He was an unused sub in that last win in November 2012, but since his debut in October 2011 the 86-times-capped centre has faced Glasgow on seven occasions, four losses in Scotstoun, three wins in the RDS Arena.

It's not a case of them not travelling well either a la some French teams. They do. In fact, they compete and they have been very close to a win on Ballsbridge soil.

Witness the three-point margin in March 2014 when Reid would score a decisive try. Or the five-point margin in October 2015. Or even tighter still, the one-point margin last April when the lights went out in the RDS on a 31-30 Leinster win.

Memory

 "All I remember from that win in 2012 was the cold! It was so cold and it wasn't a great game by any means. They had two yellow cards, we had one and then Mads (Ian Madigan) kicked the two penalties. I don't think it will live long in the memory for anyone there that night.

"But since then Scotstoun has been a fortress for them as has the RDS for us but you always feel that this could be the chance as I'm sure they do when they visit the RDS."

Reid is happy to be in the mix again. A hand injury during the pre-season friendly against Perpignan robbed him of valuable game-time and he's had to be patient. Coming off the back of his most consistent season in blue last year with 23 appearances to his name, it wasn't ideal.

"It was a setback. Four weeks out at a time when you just wanted to be hitting the ground running. I suppose we all want to do that. So I had to wait until South Africa to get my chance and then I missed the Munster game with another injury so it's been stop-start already this season but I felt I did well last week and I'm looking to kick on again this week."

Named as the 23rd man in last week's squad, he was called into action early for the injured Isa Nacewa. He slotted in to first centre and formed an effective partnership with Robbie Henshaw. It has meant a good energy to the training this week.

"I just think that every game in our pool this season is going to be difficult. Look at how well Montpellier, Glasgow and Exeter are all going in their leagues. Top two or top for all three.

"They all know how to win and for example this weekend in Glasgow we are coming up against the best defence in the PRO14.

"So to start out last weekend and to beat a team like Montpellier, top try scorers in the Top 14, with all their star players and what not… that has a huge impact on a squad like ours.

"Look at who we were missing. Players of the calibre of Jamie, Rob, Johnny, Scott Fardy… and yet young lads came in and did the business. Barry Daly and James Ryan on European debuts. That was only the second start in Europe for Ross Byrne.

"So it was a massive experience for those guys and you can see them and the whole squad taking huge confidence from that. From knowing that we can go toe to toe with the best in Europe. But now it's about Glasgow and it's a very different proposition."

How different?

"I think the tempo that they play. Dave Rennie has come in and to be fair I don't think he has changed a huge amount from Gregor's time, just tweaks, but they have evolved definitely. They play a nice brand of rugby but they also go after the opposition breakdown massively and if you don't deal with that it could be a long day for you. So we have huge respect for them and we have prepared as best we can for a huge task."

The question of the 4G pitch is again on the agenda but as the seasons go by, more and more clubs have them, and more and more clubs have training pitches to allow them to experience the conditions.

Since Leinster Rugby opened the 4G surface in Donnybrook in November 2014, they too have had access to this state-of-the-art facility. And while there are pros and cons, and those that love it and those that loathe it, Reid believes that the edge that clubs like Glasgow might once have had is no longer a factor.

Excuse

"I certainly don't see it as an excuse anymore. Of course they are more used to it but by the same token we have been able to train in Donnybrook this week. Most of our younger players, that is all they have ever known in the Schools Cup games or for those also playing with Leinster 'A' for the last three seasons. Donnybrook on the 4G has been their home.

"So no, I don't see it as the massive factor that it used to be. If anything I think it will suit both styles of play because both teams like to play and I think we'll see that on Saturday at 1pm."

To back that up, they shared eight tries between them in September 2016, but the only stat that really mattered was the end result which went with Glasgow. You can be sure that Messrs. Reid & Co. would happily swap all of that for a cold and miserable afternoon and a 6-0 win again.

Irish Independent

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