Sunday 25 February 2018

Leinster must learn a valuable lesson from Ireland taking their eye of the ball

Dave Kearney’s return from injury gives Leo Cullen more options. Photo: Sportsfile
Dave Kearney’s return from injury gives Leo Cullen more options. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

last Saturday's defeat in Scotland was a punishing reminder for Irish rugby of what happens when you take your eye off the ball.

The victories against the All Blacks and Australia in the autumn gave us all a false sense of security as we foolishly booked our tickets and braced ourselves for a Grand Slam decider on Paddy's weekend. Have we not learned by now?

The same scene is set for Leinster with the focus on the next round of the Champions Cup and less so on Treviso away on Sunday.

With the focus on dissecting the Ireland team's deficiencies in Edinburgh and how they are going to improve them in Rome, Leinster will be attending to business as usual up the road in Treviso.

Treviso versus Leinster will be a far cry from the bright lights of the Six Nations game in the Stadio Olimpico but, rest assured, it is equally important.

Leinster have an opportunity to avoid the same situation that the Irish team walked into by sealing a comprehensive win over the Italian side. This away fixture is as awkward as they come in this league.

With up to two weeks off and not much disruption from the Irish camp, Leinster will have fresh bodies available and with Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney back from injury, there is more experience to draw from.

As the final whistle sounds in Rome, the Leinster squad will be heading from Dublin airport strong favourites to maintain their winning ways but as Connacht, the current champions, will testify, the Italian side relish the home games with the league's big boys.

Apart from the potential banana skin, the other variables are that it is a Sunday of an international weekend which creates little or no hype and it is also a half one local kick-off time. Which is 12.30 in the Leinster players' body clocks.

Surely this is one of the earliest kick-off times this team will have had apart from their mini rugby days so management and team will have to be up early to get mind and body in tune for this game.

Furthermore, with a short turnaround into the next home game against Edinburgh next Friday, use of the squad will be vital while managing injuries and recovery.

Of course those of us that have the luxury of watching from afar and enjoying a festive weekend of rugby will be expecting maximum points.

From a Leinster players' point of view, compared to the November internationals, there are more openings available for call-ups - what was a closed shop some months ago is firmly open for business again.

Not much credit will be given for a victory in Treviso but they will be vital points towards the play-offs. Players coming back from injury can ease back in somewhat under the radar and get ready for an interesting home clash the following week.

After the two weeks off players will be eager to get ball in hand again, expect rustiness and a couple of dropped balls but a good start is imperative. If they are asleep for the first 20 minutes, they are in for a long afternoon.

Surely after last weekend's game against Scotland we have all learned our lesson not to take anything for granted?

Unlikely

The comparison between Ireland and Leinster would be quite unfair as currently Leo Cullen's side are in a good position to build from their third spot in the league and the chances of a slip-up are unlikely.

Finally, this week with the funeral of Prof Arthur Tanner, Leinster buried a member of the family. A long-standing friend, mentor and protector of his players, Arthur will be missed terribly. Arthur put his players first, no matter the competition, coach or team.

He endured the joys of success and heartbreak of failure with Leinster over the last 25 years and was professional in his love of the team both on and off the pitch.

It is deeply upsetting to say that there will never be another Arthur, especially when player welfare is now more important than ever. Arthur is a bigger loss than words can say.

Irish Independent

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