Thursday 15 November 2018

Magnificent seven Slammers will harden Leinster's driven desire to keep in the swim

Joey Carbery of Ireland celebrates
Joey Carbery of Ireland celebrates
Leinster's Joey Carbery. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

If any passionately parochial Leinster supporters were fretting about whether their legion of international stars might have sufficiently sated by Grand Slam success, a Tuesday morning snapshot in Dublin may have calmed any fears.

When Jonathan Sexton spotted James Ryan and Dan Leavy emerging from the swimming pool at the David Lloyd gym near Leinster HQ, the out-half knew that, unlike the self-driven class of 2009, this year's model would not need motivating.

Then, Leinster's Irish contingent helped to convert Grand Slam glory into European gold; success was a drug, as Brian O'Driscoll recalled, but the province would need to win big to get properly addicted.

"Some guys are professional beyond their years," says Jonathan Sexton. "They shouldn't be as professional as they are. It's great to see them thinking forward already.

"We have set our goals out at the start of the season for weeks such as these. It's important to get some game-time after the Six Nations, some will play against the Ospreys, some will rest.

"We haven't won it in six years and it's something we're desperate to do, reach another final and win it.

"It's a massive challenge, Saracens are the back-to-back champions but it is important we freshen up this week and get hungry to go again next week."

For obvious reasons, some will freshen up on the couch this weekend - or the swimming pool - yet there are a clutch of Grand Slammers eager to continue that winning habit against the Ospreys.

"It gives us a taste of winning a bit of silverware so it makes us a bit more hungry for the rest of the season - the next two weeks are pretty big regarding how well we'll do in the season," says Joey Carbery (right), one of the Twickenham heroes who returns to action today, albeit at full-back, with Ross Byrne maintaining his hold on the number ten shirt.

"I think it's just a good environment and pretty exciting at this stage. We've had that taste of silverware and it makes you a bit more hungry to taste it again.

"Where we are with the season now, it's possible that we might follow the Grand Slam with the European Cup, so everyone is extra hungry, extra focused to perform well over the next few weeks, which will hopefully put us in a good position."

With seven returning Grand Slam winners - including an entire front-row - that determined drive to maintain the push for honours is unlikely to be dimmed.

Carbery (above), Fergus McFadden, Jack McGrath, Seán Cronin, Andrew Porter, Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan all come straight into a side that is captained by Luke McGrath, who would surely have pushed for inclusion in Joe Schmidt's squad had not injury mocked his claims.

However, there is always a dark cloud for Leinster fans after an international campaign and the news that Jordan Larmour will miss three weeks with a leg injury is a worry, even if he may be pencilled in for a return against Treviso before a prospective European semi-final.

For their part, the home side include Justin Tipuric ahead of his Sevens duty while he is also joined by Six Nations colleagues Dan Biggar, Bradley Davies, Alun Wyn Jones and Nicky Smith in starting for the hosts, with Owen Watkin on the bench.

Ospreys are desperate to maintain a thin challenge for Europe, as well as encouraging the board of the suitability of ex-Ulster assistant Allen Clarke for the full-time position of head coach. Verdict: Leinster

Ospreys - D Evans; J Hassler, K Fonotia, A Beck, H Dirksen; D Biggar, T Habberfield; N Smith, S Otten; D Arhip, B Davies, A Wyn Jones (capt), O Cracknell, J Tipuric, S Cross. Reps: I Phillips, R Jones, M Fia, A Beard, R McCusker, M Aubrey, S Davies, O Watkin.

Leinster - J Carbery; F McFadden, R O'Loughlin, N Reid, B Daly; R Byrne, L McGrath; J McGrath, S Cronin, A Porter, R Molony, S Fardy, Josh Murphy, Jordi Murphy, J Conan. Reps: J Tracy, E Byrne, M Bent, I Nagle, M Deegan, J Gibson-Park, D Kearney, A Byrne.

Ref - J Lacey (IRFU)

  • Ospreys v Leinster, Live, S4C, 7.35

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