Sunday 21 January 2018

Leinster must build the team around players that are currently performing

Joey Carbery is better suited to playing with space in-front of him. Photo: Sportsfile
Joey Carbery is better suited to playing with space in-front of him. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

There was little build-up to last week's game in the RDS as people were fully aware that the rugby season has not kicked in just yet.

In hindsight, it was expected to be another walk in the park at home for Leinster seeing as the shackles from the South African trip would want to be dusted off and the Edinburgh team were shorn of eight of their front-line players.

What resulted was a lacklustre performance in front of a home crowd that shows there is a lot of work to do.

After the Lions and Ireland tours, there seems to be an imbalance in the squad as players have listened to a lot of different coaches in the last six months.

The expectation of the Lions players in the Guinness PRO14 in early season would traditionally be low and last Friday, you could see their rustiness and fatigue across the board.

There are more groups of players in this Leinster squad than ever before - there are Lions players, Irish players, Irish squad players, Ireland U-20s, Leinster squad players and Academy guys.

We saw a glimpse during the Clermont and Scarlets semi-final defeats at the end of last season where the senior players were selected and duly underperformed. When this is repeated during the next season, it can cause difficulties.

It is true that the senior players need game-time just as everyone else does, particularly those who have been rested or returning from injury, but what's lacking recently is the onus to perform.

There are players that are carrying this team at the moment and these players are not the stars but a mixture of players from each group that are just getting down and dirty, grinding out the wins when they seem out of reach .

Any team coached by Richard Cockerill will always be well-drilled and also subject to his pre-match protestations of the possible outcome of the game.

This time he figured his team would be very much the underdogs but they played like anything but. Edinburgh were focused on Leinster's weak points, they attacked the midfield partnership which crumbled in open play putting enormous pressure on the home side in the first 30 minutes.

Nobody is doubting that Leinster need to get better and will get better but the road to recovery needs to be fast and furious.

There are players performing week in, week out but the overall squad is disjointed and ill-disciplined; two interceptions in two games will prove the former and countless penalties, spilled balls are inevitable.

Scott Fardy is a great find and his passion and skill level will fit right in for the Leinster XV; this will not sit well with the younger second-rows but if embraced they can learn from him. His abrasive nature over spilled a few times last Friday but will be needed throughout the season.

So Leinster must build the team around the players that are performing; Seán Cronin, for example, put the ball in his hands at every available opportunity.

The rest of the front-row picks it self with Seán O'Brien at eight, that frees up Josh van de flier Jordi Murphy and Rhys Ruddock for the other spots.

demanding Dave Kearney is hitting form at the right time too. Joey Carbery is not good in contact so put him into space. Johnny Sexton looked his frustrated, demanding self last weekend and Ross Byrne came on hungry to finish Edinburgh off with some nice kicks to the corner.

We are lucky on this island that the Leinster-Munster battles are always a pre-cursor for Europe.

As tradition shows, it's a game that brings out the best in the players and supporters and makes the following week's European game less daunting than playing against your greatest but most respected enemy.

I can't see tomorrow's game being etched into the annals of history due to the recent performances of both teams. Nevertheless, this clash could not have come at a better time to reconfigure the season ahead for both sides.

Irish Independent

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