Saturday 21 September 2019

Fergus McFadden: The competition for places at Leinster is frightening

Fergus McFadden is looking forward to returning to European action
Fergus McFadden is looking forward to returning to European action

Fergus McFadden

Professional sport can be very fickle and as a result you take every game on its merits and you can't look too far ahead as you can get quickly caught out.

That being said, after this weekend we will be nearly a third of the way through the Guinness PRO12 regular season and having seen Leo and Isa in London earlier this week for the Champions Cup launch, European rugby in its wider sense is only around the corner. It has flown by!

It really is hard to believe the first Champions Cup games are almost upon us already with a jam packed exciting schedule in place for Leinster before Christmas. The last few weeks of training have been great too with a fresh energy around the club after the international lads returned from the World Cup. While reintegration creates challenges, it also creates a great energy and buzz.

It didn't end as they would have wished but I'm sure it was a nice feeling being home and back to a new look Leinster.

The format is different in training under Leo and the lads have fitted in seamlessly which has been a great boost for the squad. It's not easy coming back from stints with Ireland to discover an entirely new play book but there is no time for hanging around.

Leo put it really well when he spoke to media earlier this week when he referred to it as a new language and it really is. The other element that is very different to say a 6 Nations block is just the length of time the lads have been away. So it is doubly difficult but they've all applied themselves brilliantly.

Last week was a really good training week for us considering we integrated 20 players back into the set up.

It was a massive result for us to take advantage of all five points away against Treviso and build momentum in the league before the first pool games in Europe.

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Treviso has been a tough place to go the past few seasons for Leinster.

Thankfully we left Italy with a try bonus point which is key going into this weeks game against Llanelli Scarlets who are thriving at the top of the league. They have been the in form team to date in the PRO12 and have won all six games so far. They're the only unbeaten team left.

It was a tough day at the office over there three weeks ago when they beat us convincingly and we will certainly have that in the back of our minds when we host them in the RDS.

We want to continue the winning run we have begun at home and with a full squad to pick from for Leo it's the last chance for players to put their hands up before the start of the Champions Cup.

The first two games in the Champions Cup present massive challenges in Wasps and Bath and it's important to get off to a good start as you don't want to be chasing results in the latter pool stages.

Wasps signed a couple of Leinster players last season in Jimmy Gopperth and Brendan Macken, so it will be good to catch up with those lads.

Wasps are a quality side and were tough group stage opponents last year both home and away and will be a better side this season

I think after some big name signings like Australian breakdown expert George Smith and Kiwi flyer Charles Piutau. Christian Wade is still there too.

Similarly Bath hold a massive challenge away in the Rec and they have become familiar for us over the past few seasons in Europe as we have met them in the group and knock out stages.

With everyone back from the World Cup plus new signing Hayden Triggs, the strength of the squad is really exciting.

Competition for places is going to be fierce and I can't can't remember the last time we have had this level of depth across the board.

That's how we want it as it will get the best out of the squad from a performance side.

At the end of the day you play for Leinster to try and win trophies and if the squad is competitive and pushing each other in every position we are going in the right direction to do that.

The Scarlets hold a massive challenge at home in the RDS and I can't wait to get out there to try get another win in front of our home fans, get down in blue on Friday to cheer us on and be the 16th man!

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