Thursday 18 January 2018

Leinster players are primed to take sting out of Wasps

Marty Moore
Marty Moore
Marty Moore
Isaac Boss
Jack McGrath
James Haskell

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Fresh from the massage table, Isaac Boss is in good form. Leinster are 80 minutes away from a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup. But more than that, he has submitted his thesis. The weight of the world has been lifted.

"I've been studying for my MBA for the last two and a half years in the Dublin Business School so it's been a busy time with lectures in the evenings. Myself Rob Kearney, Shane Jennings and Eoin O'Malley have been keeping each other company at various stages," he explained.

His thesis focused on strategic management within the charitable sector and, with hands on involvement already under his belt with Laura Lynn and Le Chéile Mentoring Project, Boss has plenty of real life experience to draw on.

Some of that strategic management would have come in useful to plot the Leinster course this season. But bit by bit they are getting there and their goals are within sight.

"I've yet to see a team win anything in September. We are making our way through a very competitive PRO12 and a tough Pool 2 in Europe.

Tested

"Ultimately we are just 80 minutes away from a home quarter-final, which was one of our key goals. We have been tested over the course of that time but you have to evaluate where we are at given all the other factors and leading into this weekend we are in the hunt for three trophies with the 'A' team also in action in the quarter-finals of the B&I Cup."

It's not just any old 80 minutes, though. It's against a team with genuine European pedigree who have won the tournament twice. They also have a squad full of English internationals and, just like the Leinster team, are coming into form at just the right time.

"To lose your first two games in Europe and yet to be still in it come the final round is a huge credit to Wasps. They dug in against us and held on for the losing bonus point.

"Thinking back, they very nearly scored an intercept try late on and that could have given them even more from their visit to the RDS.

"They were very professional in their games against Castres. The win away to Quins, though, made everyone sit up. The Stoop is a tough place to visit. To keep Quins to just one kick, even when down to 14 men, shows where they are at. They are up for a fight, for a battle but have the craft and the speed to punish you as well."

They are also playing in a new stadium in Coventry. Does that unfamiliarity offer an opportunity?

"Perhaps, but they've hit the ground running in the Ricoh Arena, where they are unbeaten. They haven't let the off-the-field distractions affect them in any way.

"But going to a new stadium as an away player is also exciting. You look forward to visiting new stadia. They have, I believe, tapped into a new fan base there so the atmosphere will be good."

Wasps certainly left a mark in the RDS. Two first-half tries had Leinster trailing by nine points at the break, but a stirring second-half performance and a defensive effort that kept Wasps scoreless saw Leinster home with five points to spare.

"What I remember most is that they had the ability to score from anywhere. Not only that, but they are very clinical with the opportunities that they do get.

"They don't leave many points behind them when they get within your 22. Out-half Andy Goode is an excellent kicker, who controls the game very well. Then, they have pace outside with Christian Wade in great form again."

As captain, James Haskell is a big player for Wasps. He was an 11th hour withdrawal at the RDS, but he'll be back tomorrow - as will Joe Simpson, their electric scrum-half. Two players that Boss can expect to see a lot of.

"Haskell leads by example. He was immense against Harlequins last weekend. He led the line brilliantly and had the discipline not to rush in.

"But it's not just him - Nathan Hughes at number 8 is having a great season and Simpson at scrum-half; you can't take your eyes off him. He has pace to burn and an eye for that gap. He needs to be closed down.

"Then again, a lot of the good work that he does comes about because of how well the pack is going.

"That is the challenge for us as a unit. We need to front up and get amongst them to ensure they don't get that rhythm."

What of the result? There will be calculations, permutations, combinations and recriminations from what happens in Pool 2 and elsewhere.

Leinster could lose and still go through, but that is not a factor, according to the 20-times Irish capped scrum-half.

"Winning is key. It is all that we are after. We are looking no further than that.

Schools

"We aren't even thinking of home or away in the quarter-finals, anything. It's Wasps. In the Ricoh. And we'll let the stats men take over after that."

Come 2.30pm on Sunday, Boss will be letting another group of men take over. For the last two years he has been helping out with the backs in Terenure College, who face defending champions Blackrock College in the first round of the Leinster Schools Senior Cup.

"I really enjoy my time with them. They are a well drilled and very committed group of lads. We lost last year in the first round to St Michael's but we have some lads back from last year and they'll be the better for that experience. There is some fresh young talent there as well.

"I'm confident that they can do the job on Sunday against 'Rock. A few of them will be young enough again next year so we'll be hoping that they give a good account of themselves in Donnybrook. After that we'll have to wait and see."

Much like tomorrow. Eighty minutes. Time to wait and see.

Irish Independent

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