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Leinster passed a mental test against a woeful Wasps team but learned little else

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Garry Ringrose impressed against Wasps. Photo: Sportsfile

Garry Ringrose impressed against Wasps. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Garry Ringrose impressed against Wasps. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster's last pool game against Wasps was never going to be a spectacle of European rugby.

Having lost away in Dublin earlier in this competition, the half-empty Ricoh Arena was never going to be a cauldron.

In fact, rarely have we seen in such a limp performance from a home side at this level.

Wasps were clearly more interested in damage limitation than a result of consequence.

For the travelling fans, who were much more vocal than the home supporters, this was a day out to celebrate once again Leinster's dominance over a European side that once were kings of Europe but clearly no more.

Eddie Jones' trip to Coventry was as futile as the Wasps players lining out on the pitch for kick-off.

Wasps are on a fast decline. It is clear that the players are rudderless and obvious the director of rugby Dai Young has lost the dressing-room.

The Wasps management had not done their homework on Leinster and did not compete at the breakdown like Munster and Connacht did recently, to slow their ball.

Wasps relied on their disjointed defence and allowed a professional, repetitive Leinster attack to run the ball deep into the crumbling defensive line.

Countless

You would think after the countless injuries to Wasps in the first 20 minutes, either the captain or coach would have changed the game-plan.

But no, Young's men were destined to feed off Leinster's scraps for the rest of the game with no Plan B and only lapses of concentration allowing them to score opportunistic tries.

It is normal to have such lapses when the opposition are on their knees while your side are still in second gear.

Nobody will blame Andrew Porter for leaving his post at the side of the ruck which allowed Dan Robson to pounce.

For Leinster, this game was nothing more than a training run and playing at home in the RDS tonight will provide more comfort but more of a test, once again increasing the value of the PRO14 to the competing nations.

The environment last weekend was in stark contrast to the previous week against Toulouse.

The French side's line-speed was about as good as you'd get in the Champions Cup.

Their competitive nature was relentless and Leinster had to dig deep and be patient.

Last weekend, Wasps were happy enough to soak up the attack until their minds and bodies gave in to the sustained pressure from the visiting side.

In typical English fashion this caused frustration amongst the players individually and the off-the-ball digs were as prevalent as their humiliation in front of the home crowd.

Nevertheless, the game still had to be won, running out in a half-empty stadium on a Sunday to gain a home quarter-final against a disinterested home side provided a mental test that Leinster overcame for most of the game.

The performances of Garry Ringrose, Sean O'Brien and Sean Cronin were timely for the Six Nations.

Jamison Gibson-Park and Dave Kearney proved once again the strength and depth of this squad and the hunger to perform within.

What was also encouraging was James Ryan's attack on the Wasps lineout.

In fairness to most English sides, they get their set-pieces right.

To see Ryan snag a few opposition lineouts was encouraging for the games ahead.

Cronin once again added to his try haul and at this stage once again surely must be putting the heat on for Ireland selection.

If ever there was a time to pick a player for what he brings to a side as to what he doesn't, this is the greatest example.

The five-day turnaround this week would normally be a concern, particularly when switching competitions, but the game was well managed by the Leinster staff so this will not be a factor tonight.

With the Six Nations on the horizon, Leinster's position in the table will facilitate selection for the Irish team - not just the Irish squad.

Intensity

The low intensity of the game allowed O'Brien to dictate his return to provincial and international rugby. It was the same for Robbie Henshaw.

Both revelled in the contact area much to the dismay of the home team and used this game as a confidence booster for themselves with club and country.

Scarlets tonight is another ideal opportunity to rotate the squad. It has been a tough few weeks and a return to the RDS in a new format will be welcome.

With the player drain from Leinster for the Six Nations being a formality Leinster can draw from the rest of the squad's resources .

What has worked so far in the PRO14 has been a healthy blend of foreign players, experienced and completely inexperienced players.

The inexperienced players bring the hunger to the more professional and seasoned experienced players. For opposition teams, this is next to impossible to prepare for and review.

For Leinster it's an ideal way to rotate the players. For the home crowd it once again will be an appetiser for what lies ahead on the rugby calendar.

Irish Independent