Tuesday 18 September 2018

Leinster are where they want to be but must be wary of dangerous Glasgow side

Leo Cullen expects Glasgow to throw everything at his charges. Photo: CODY GLENN/ SPORTSFILE
Leo Cullen expects Glasgow to throw everything at his charges. Photo: CODY GLENN/ SPORTSFILE

Victor Costello

On an average weekend in the autumn of recent years, losing an out-half and second-row early in the week would barely make the first paragraph of any rugby round-up.

When it comes to the first round of the Champions Cup everyone is a little bit more anxious as the stakes get higher.

Apart from the eventual knockout stages of European rugby, the pool games offer the standard requirements; win your home games with possible bonus points and grab what you can on the road.

Normally winning the first game at home will give momentum to the next away game no matter the venue or club, so tomorrow's trip will give Leinster the favourites' tag against Glasgow.

This week sees Leinster enjoying both extremes of European rugby; last weekend they played against an individually mercenary but talented Montpellier team and now, they face a galvanised Glasgow team with their backs against the wall at home.

Montpellier came out with their big guns blazing and held the ball for the first couple of minutes in the first half.

Individually, they created opportunities, particularly the familiar Ruan Pienaar, and of course Nemani Nadolo, the latter causing serious damage to every prospective tackler.

But as a team Montpellier are nowhere near where they need to be to compete in Europe and if they suffer another loss they will switch off for Leinster's return game in January.

In this competition preparation is vital, so is avoiding injury, however once you get through the first game it's about managing the squad's mental state rather than physical.

A PRO14 trip to Glasgow would be competitive though more forgiving than tomorrow's clash. The statisticians will not agree but this is Glasgow's last chance saloon and will throw everything at Leinster in their relatively new home.

Reeling from their close loss to Exeter, they are a good side and have been consistent over the past few seasons.

With Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour available their game-plan will not be dissimilar to Leinster's but a crucial away win against the familiar foe will be at the forefront of Leo Cullen's mind.

The loss of Scott Fardy and Johnny Sexton was somewhat nullified by cracking displays from James Ryan and Ross Byrne. Byrne's all-round performance was more notable due to the need for an eventual replacement for Sexton.

For Leinster to continue to perform in this competition the seamless slotting-in of these players before a game should not be such a surprise to the squad and fans.

Adam Byrne won't have to be told it wasn't his best game in defence but given the opportunity it's just his positional game he needs to work on, not speed or strength.

Leinster's set-pieces were much stronger than any game this season.

This is where Glasgow will attack from their day-to-day knowledge of Leinster in the PRO14, with this area stabilised Cullen's side will have a better platform.

Attack

The work-rate of Rhys Ruddock, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner and Josh van der Flier will ensure that Leinster will have enough ball to attack with and if conditions prevail, they should have more in their playbook.

Apart from the win last Saturday, the home game gave Leinster players the opportunity to get up to speed in Europe.

Lions Furlong, Jack McGrath and Robbie Henshaw are back to their best, Noel Reid had one of his best games off the bench after a difficult game against Edinburgh, and Barry Daly equipped himself well as a strong finisher and defender.

The opportunity of an away win in this campaign will not go unnoticed within the squad.

Glasgow need a win, but so far Leinster are exactly where they need to be and they have the history and tradition to go with it.

Irish Independent

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