Monday 19 August 2019

Lancaster braced for 'tricky' test against buoyant Dragons

Senior coach Stuart Lancaster
Senior coach Stuart Lancaster
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

If the conference table is anything to go by, this evening's return of the PRO14 should be a routine win for Leinster but Stuart Lancaster has warned that Dragons will come into the game battle-hardened.

Leinster haven't played since their defeat in Glasgow at the start of the month which has left plenty of time to stew over what was a bitterly disappointing result.

Given the sizeable number that the province again had training in Carton House with Ireland this week, they were forced to delay the naming of their team until later than normal.

Such is life when you are providing the national team with the bulk of their players but the group who have remained in UCD are looking to get their campaign back on track.

While Leinster are without a game in three weeks, the Dragons have been playing in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, which is something that Lancaster is mindful of.

Bernard Jackman returns to his old stomping ground with his Welsh side and will be desperate to pull off a shock result.

"It's a tricky game for us in that we can't select our side until a little later in the week," Lancaster said.

"It does have a knock-on effect into how cohesive you can get. The other thing is obviously, we're back after a week break. We had a week off, then a rugby week. The Dragons have played two Anglo-Welsh games.

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"So they will have momentum, cohesion and confidence, they beat Scarlets at the weekend and our job is to get the players up to speed as quickly as we can - once we know for sure what the exact make-up of the team will be and that won't be until Wednesday.

"It sounds daft but it is quite a short preparation time to get your team. Dragons obviously will be coming here match-fit, match-sharp and confident."

James Lowe has begun training with his new team-mates but his debut has been put on hold as he is being managed carefully after what was an extremely long season back home in New Zealand.

Exciting

The exciting winger arrives in Dublin with a big reputation but Leinster supporters will have to wait to see him in a blue jersey.

"He has just got himself on the training field," Lancaster explained.

"We need to get him bedded into the systems and structures of the way we play. He's a good guy and has a made a positive impact around the group.

"He's in that process I was in when I first arrived of learning 60 players' names and 30 coaches' names."

Despite Leinster's plentiful supply of back-three options, Lowe will provide them with something different, according to Lancaster.

"He roams a lot in attack which is a real strength actually. He reminds me a little bit of Jack Nowell and the way he plays for Exeter and England where you see him popping up all over the place and making a difference.

"He'll definitely be an asset and obviously he's a big guy so he'll add physicality and he's quick. It's just trying to get that balance right to make sure he works within the attacking systems and similarly in defence as well.

"He's used to defending in a different system out in New Zealand, they tend to defend up and out.

"There's a bit of work to do there but he's a great lad, settled in well and he's enjoying it."

Leinster will kick off what they will hope is a positive weekend for Irish rugby, with Joe Schmidt's side taking on Argentina tomorrow, and Lancaster added that he has been impressed by what he has seen from them this month.

"I think Joe will be pleased overall and it's always the last game that gives you that satisfied feeling because you know you've got a break leading into the Six Nations.

"You always want to finish on a good performance and I think he'll be absolutely driving them this week to make sure that the performance against Argentina is the best of the three. And if they get that right then they should have a comfortable win."

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