Wednesday 26 June 2019

Lowe's free spirit can unlock Leinster's attack as we head to climax of season

James Lowe
James Lowe

Victor Costello

In professional rugby these days, punters and pundits get bogged down in the minutiae of the league stats, tables and the various connotations.

It is great for bar-room banter after a game or the days leading up, but when you add Leinster's strength in depth and selection conundrums into the discussion, we then tend to lose focus on what's important.

James Lowe is an immediate antidote to this. He has been given plenty of deserved credit for his attitude on and off the pitch and is a crowd favourite.

But his desire to win is the one striking attribute he has, while his ability to find the try line, even under duress, will be vital later on in the season.

The last time this type of determination graced the squad was back in the days of European success.


Think back to the tempo in the Millennium Stadium when Johnny Sexton led the comeback against a structured Northampton, or the desire and fear of losing against Leicester in the 2009 final.

Lowe has a lot more years of service to do to be compared with the likes of Isa Nacewa or Felipe Contepomi, but his free spirit might be the key to unlock the much-needed gear change come the play-off part of the season.

Let's not forget this time last year when Leinster were racking up 40 points a game in the comfort zone of the RDS against most of their PRO12 rivals.

With no other squad having the same riches, it meant Leinster gained a false sense of security and were not tested through this period.

They have been tested over the past two games and compared to the standards they need to be at they have struggled, hence Stuart Lancaster's anger.

While Lowe gets the headlines Scott Fardy's intelligence in the pack is crucial in attack and defensive lineouts, however, this Leinster side has lost its cohesiveness and the defensive patterns and discipline are suffering.

Leading into the Scarlets game, Leinster had an ideal opportunity to banish the demons from Myreside, yet the performance was patchy at best.

The problem area for Leinster at this time is the team's discipline. This is not because of the scrum penalty in the dying minutes of the Scarlets game but the nature of the ill-discipline is affecting the defensive patterns.

Discipline demands mental awareness throughout the game and once this awareness drops mistakes happen.

It took Leinster 20 minutes to break down the Scarlets defence. This period is something Leinster are far too familiar with from last season's play-offs.

If you drop your guard for this amount of time in a European outing you have lost the game.

Lancaster's words at half-time were well documented and well received going by the urgency Leinster began the second half with, but it is clear there is a lag in the squad due to the increased attrition rate from the Six Nations.

There will be pressure in training over these weeks to get it right and the Kings this evening will be a good confidence-booster, but with two away games in Wales to follow, Leinster will have to tighten their ship to prove they are ready for the Saracens game.

Even with the strength and depth the management will be concerned about the expected recovery time of Robbie Henshaw, Sean O'Brien and Luke McGrath.

In the latter's case, he was the victim of a bizarre Irish squad rotation with Kieran Marmion for the second berth to Conor Murray when clearly he is the only scrum-half who could push for the top spot.

Once again it will beg the question of the mental and physical state of these players at the end of the Six Nations campaign and the effect it will have in selection for the quarter-finals.

Everyone will be feeling the heat.

Irish Independent

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