Saturday 17 August 2019

Leinster must quench Dragons early fire and hit ground running for weeks ahead

Bernard Jackman will have the Dragons well prepared as they travel to his old stomping ground
Bernard Jackman will have the Dragons well prepared as they travel to his old stomping ground

Victor Costello

Leinster's poor performance against Glasgow a couple of weeks ago would normally be long forgotten by now, but having two weeks off means that the defeat would have festered in the minds of the players.

It was a game played only two weeks after a Champions Cup victory in the same venue, but with different personnel.

It was also a game played days after the Ireland squad was announced for the November inter-nationals.

For many reasons the atmosphere on the flight over to Glasgow on this occasion would have been totally different to the mood on the previous trip weeks before, and unfortunately it showed in the performance that day.

The performance was littered with mistakes, sloppy defence and bad concentration.

Mentally this Leinster team were not prepared, and Glasgow were happy to play in a manner they were not allowed to play weeks earlier. It was clear that day that no matter how professional a squad is, there are just some days that players would rather be somewhere else.

There is nothing a management team can do on days like this except have a better awareness of the highs and lows of individual players through a normal international and provincial season and manage them thereafter.

The contrast between Dragons and Leinster is evident already in the last few weeks. The Welsh club's new coach Bernard Jackman will have enjoyed their recent Anglo-Welsh games as they will allow his side to gather momentum.

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It will also have allowed Jackman get to know his squad better than he would have when these sides met earlier in the season.

Rest assured, the Dragons will be better prepared tonight than they were the last time, and Jackman will know all too well the disruption of the November internationals and the distraction they will be to the Leinster players.

Leinster on the other hand will have used this period to allow for some of the injured to slot back in to full-time training and take a rare opportunity of recovery for players who have played regularly from the start of the season.

In my opinion, Leinster were wrong to wait on the national camp to tell them who's available for selection.

However, Leo Cullen has decided to start the released Jordi Murphy while the two others sent back, Andrew Porter and Jack Conan, are on the bench.

Cullen has a big enough squad to survive this period, and should have disregarded players returning from national duty. This would have been beneficial both to the squad and those on duty in Carton House.

In this case, one can be sure that Leinster are pressing on. There will be players eager to get back to winning ways, and in professional rugby when you are not playing, you are effectively redundant,

The comfort of the RDS is a great place to play the penultimate game before the Champions Cup starts again; however, the preparations for this phase of Europe are far from ideal.

I've no doubt that Leinster can get maximum points from the Dragons and in Treviso next week, but a trip to Exeter is looming on an inconvenient Sunday evening.


The next three games are gong to throw up completely different environments: a comfortable home clash, a straightforward away fixture and finally, a hostile away game in a different competition against a formidable English side, which could ultimately determine the outcome of Leinster's European ambitions.

Leinster's initial priority would be to have a complete performance against the Dragons and then reassess player availability on Monday - when the November internationals are over. Anything less will put them on the back foot going down to Treviso and then to Exeter.

Time will tell whether the management have got this period right, but they have been caught licking their European wounds before Christmas in previous years.

This is the time to prevent a recurrence of the same problem.

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