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Failure to perform in low-key games is just not acceptable - and it gets noticed


Leinster's Isaac Boss is tackled by Alberto Lucchese of Benetton Treviso. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Isaac Boss is tackled by Alberto Lucchese of Benetton Treviso. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE


Leinster's Isaac Boss is tackled by Alberto Lucchese of Benetton Treviso. Pat Murphy / SPORTSFILE

As glamorous as the heights of the Aviva Stadium and the RDS are, there are times when teams have to dig deep on the road away from the high-profile adoration that normally greets them every weekend.

These games often take place in awkward venues and at inappropriate times for the rest of the weekend's rugby viewing.

Last Sunday was one of those days when Leinster lost focus and ended up making what should have be an easy trip to a struggling Treviso a messy moral victory for the home side.

In Leinster's case, valuable Pro12 points were lost and they now only have one game left to get it right before European rugby beckons again. In fairness to Leinster, the injury problem still continues with the forced withdrawal of Luke Fitzgerald and the disruption this caused prior to the game.

The players that took the field last Sunday will rue the chance missed to perform while so many were ruled out through injury or international duty.

Treviso played an 'in your face' style of rugby. Out wide with the rain-sodden pitch in Padova, the Leinster back-line could not ignite. While trying to get on the front foot, they were met with a well-organised push-up defence and for most of the game had no answer.

The Leinster management won't have too much time to dwell on this game. However, it would be foolish not to be practical and take some notes and experiences away from this game.

Overall, Treviso managed to spoil Leinster's scrums and lineouts (which seems to be creeping into the minds of every opposition Leinster come up against), not only attacking the front-row but they also managed to put pressure on the back-row too.

These two problems are normally linked but the back-row usually have options when dealing with a struggling scrum. Most options include full communication with the scrum-half and removing the ball from the problem area expeditiously.

The first time this happened resulted in a try for Treviso.

At lineout time, one would like to give Treviso the benefit of their knowledge of the Leinster lineout but the Blues are constantly shooting themselves in the foot with crooked throws.

It has been a constant theme of this column that until the scrums and lineout situation are sorted out, the final stages of both competitions this year will be a bridge too far.

From a player's point of view, particularly in the Joe Schmidt era, one can find yourself in front of 50,000 one week and 2,000 the next. In times past, Sunday games in Treviso after an international weekend may not have mattered to Irish squad selection in the future but in this era they do.

The mental strength it takes to keep a level of performance away from the bright lights was shown by the hunger and consistency of Darragh Fanning, Tadhg Furlong, David Kearney and Dominic Ryan when he came on.

Jack Conan has certainly made his mark and the more we see of him the better. Brian Byrne the same. Others in last week's team have some ground to make up in chasing the ever-competitive Irish squad.

Aimless kicks and continued poor judgement is unacceptable at this level. The reality now is that apart from the Leinster coaching staff, big brother Joe is constantly watching provincial performances.

At home in the RDS is a perfect venue to get performances back on track. Leaving for London next week with a victory is a must.

Matt O'Connor is facing his toughest selection decisions of the season for the Ospreys game.

With not a lot expected to change for the Harlequins back-to-backs, get it right and the rest of the season will flow. Get it wrong against the Ospreys and Leinster will enter pressure territory in Europe.


Leinster might have got away with it last weekend and only a result this weekend will banish those demons. Ospreys' record in the RDS overall has been poor but they have managed to beat Leinster on a few occasions when it mattered most.

Leinster have the ability to play smart rugby, knowing their own deficiencies and exposing their opposition's weaknesses.

The Ospreys once again will give Leinster an idea of where they are weak and need to improve.

Conor O'Shea and Harlequins the following weeks will do the same. Hopefully by then Leinster will have earned a victory with substance and performance that will be strong enough to hold form in Europe.

The return of the injured and internationals will help, but it's not up to the RDS crowd to drag the team to where they need to be.

Irish Independent