Friday 23 March 2018

Fogarty relishing the challenge of Leinster's South African trek

Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The Leinster players will face several new challenges during their mini-tour of South Africa but this is also very much in uncharted territory for the backroom team.

The squad had barely touched down in Johannesburg on Wednesday before they encountered their first major issue.

Kiwi pair Isa Nacewa and Jamison Gibson-Park were not granted entry to South Africa after new legislation came into effect in January, meaning that all New Zealand travellers require a visa to enter the country. Both players returned to Dublin with Nick McCarthy called up as scrum-half.


It was the last thing Leinster needed on their first venture to South Africa but a certain degree of excitement remained amongst the squad ahead of tomorrow's game.

Despite an injury list of 18 players, there has been plenty of guys putting their hands up for selection in training in recent weeks.

Two bonus-point wins from their opening two games has the squad in a buoyant mood - even if they had to dig deep against Cardiff last Friday. "As a coaching group, we sat down and spoke about individuals and it's very difficult," John Fogarty said of the selection process earlier this week.

"Again, you're weighing up the opposition. For us, players that are present in training and have been training with us for the last number of weeks, they're the players that went on the plane.

"They turned up, they're fit, they're training hard. Obviously the guys that played and weren't injured were going to be going.

"There were five or six decisions to be made and they were very, very difficult. I would hope that we are picking the players that are in form, the players that are presenting in training and working well in sessions as well as in games.

"It's never easy, which is always a good problem. I'm sure there were a few disappointed bodies but it's the nature of the game."

While Leinster and Zebre are very much the guinea pigs as they are the first Guinness PRO14 teams to make the long journey to South Africa, Fogarty admitted that they were relishing the challenge.

"I guess we are the first team to travel down to South Africa in the PRO14 to play, that has had its challenges to get to this point to go," he explained.

"It will be a huge challenge. We're really, really excited to be that (first) team to go down there.

"The playing group are really, really ambitious, as they always are. They want to get wins. We're realistic about the opposition. They're tough, tough sides and they're going to play with a different mentality when they are in their own back yard.

"We're excited about it but it's a huge challenge. It's so important that we go down there, enjoy what is going to be a great trip to South Africa but also on a Monday, do what we're supposed to do in order to have the right mindset - applying ourselves to training sessions, preparing to play and win games.

"It's so important that we have that mindset and not get lost in the excitement of what's going to be a great trip."

The Leinster squad will not all return home together as some of the squad depart South Africa next Saturday, with the rest following on a later flight on Sunday.


It's not ideal but Fogarty was quick to praise the work that Leo Cullen has done behind the scenes in recent weeks, whilst acknowledging that there was an added responsibly on the shoulders of the coaching staff during their short stint in the southern hemisphere because of the important games that are coming down the line.

"It's exciting to go to a whole new country - I've never been to South Africa before so there is a lot of excitement around it," Fogarty added. "We come back from South Africa and we've get Edinburgh then Munster and then we are into Europe. It's a huge part of us building towards those moments. It's critical that we as staff conduct ourselves in the right manner.

"Even though we're reduced, we're going to be responsible and make sure we do the job properly so that we build towards the middle of the season which is so important."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport