| 16.8°C Dublin

Leinster still the team to beat despite their defensive and confidence frailties

Close

Rhys Ruddock's performance last weekend was one of the few positives for Leinster

Rhys Ruddock's performance last weekend was one of the few positives for Leinster

SPORTSFILE

Rhys Ruddock's performance last weekend was one of the few positives for Leinster

Life for Leinster is not getting any better as these weeks trundle by. A team that has been used to the spotlight and the success over the last few years would find these recent performances below standard, leading to uncomfortable body language on the pitch and relatively unknown territory for most of the players that have been around for the last few years.

Rhys Ruddock's agitation while being questioned by the Sky Sports interviewer after last Saturday's defeat highlights the negative domino effect it can have on Leinster's ambitions for the rest of the season and indeed Ruddock's burning desire to get back into the Ireland squad.

Ruddock's performance and leadership was one of the highlights of Leinster's afternoon but for Leinster, the rot must be quickly stopped.

However hard this part of the season is on players who are in and out of both the Leinster and the Ireland squads, there has to be a level of trust and professionalism within to get the job done.

Provincial squads, albeit in the professional era, have still got amateur-era qualities. Juggling the performance in the day job with a view to personal ambitions towards national selection is extremely difficult, but the solace is that most of your team-mates are in the same situation.

It doesn't get any easier when players have to leave an extremely successful and hopeful Irish squad in Carton House and head to Scarlets hoping to maintain that vital top-four position in the Pro12. This is where the professionalism comes in.

Expectation

The foundation of the Irish team's success will always come from the success of the provinces, and yes as a fan we can cast aside the decline of Munster and Ulster this year by the level of our expectation both in the Six Nations and the World Cup.

However, the players in that bubble of pressure and expectation of the international squad know that if their comrades in Leinster don't perform on cold Saturday nights in Wales with half-empty stadia, the dream can dissipate very quickly.

That itself puts the onus on those selected in the Pro12 to perform to keep the platform and foundation of winning. That keeps the Irish coach (who has considerably less time with his players) content with a squad of winning players.

The idea of building a game seems lost at Leinster and realising this sooner rather than later would benefit. Leinster are constantly pushing the pass that is not on which is creating errors.

Scarlets controlled about 80pc of the game and yet were still beatable. What Leinster don't see is that they are still the team to beat and the players in their squad are the envy of most other teams and coaches in the competition.

I'm sure supporters and players are beginning to doubt the ability for Leinster to bounce back in time for the games ahead. Many instances in last Saturday's game would give reason to believe so.

There were moments where composure and pressure from Scarlets exposed Leinster's defence.

The lack of realisation from some of the management in the media could cost Leinster, as the fix is quite easy. Constant defence of a team in the media by the coach is draining and the more explaining a coach does, the less energy spent correcting the various problems.

With the most important part of the season ahead, Leinster have defensive and confidence frailties.

Experience

Even while the general display is poor, Jimmy Gopperth is performing consistently and Gordon D'Arcy has found an ideal roll of putting Ben Te'o into space.

His experience of his own game and facilitating others will be an area to watch over the next while.

After two weeks of down time, the next two games will have Leinster performing from the back foot. The lack of consistency and structure ironically makes them unpredictable, particularly at the RDS with the home crowd.

Glasgow have the same personnel problems that Leinster have and that clash will be an ideal warm-up for Bath who are up next in Europe.

This will ensure a lot of soul-searching over the next two weeks and when the Six Nations comes to an end, Leinster's season will have to re-start.

Irish Independent