Saturday 16 December 2017

Marsh leads way as new generation help Leo's troops surpass all expectations

Cathal Marsh takes on the Dragons defence
Cathal Marsh takes on the Dragons defence

Victor Costello

What's normally expected during a World Cup is that the remaining senior players lead by example in Leinster's quest for success.

When the internationals are away, the prevailing mood in the dressing-room is as follows: the senior players lament their inability to be at the World Cup and the novices strive to impress to get a chance to play.

Over the past two weeks, the younger players have played with a maturity beyond their years, which has initiated the return of fortress RDS.

Their performances have given Leinster a consistency and hunger that has them ahead of original expectations for this season.

The non-standard early break in the season would have refreshed the players from the intense pre-season training but nothing can compare to the intensity of a competitive match.

Leinster's performance last weekend against the Dragons proved there is hunger and excitement among the squad.

The rugby being played is creating positivity and the ability to come back from the 10-6 deficit, by sticking to the game-plan, shows mental strength within the group.

The emergence this season of Garry Ringrose, Cathal Marsh and Josh Van der Flier has proved that the production line of players from the academy is in full working order.

Marsh will prove a viable back-up to Johnny Sexton, both in the Leinster squad and sooner rather than later, the Irish squad. The competition between himself, Ian Madigan and Johnny Sexton will bring out the best in all three.

Ringrose is certainly making a name for himself while playing out of position and his development will be vital for this season's tougher outings.

His showing last week was deservedly singled out by Leo Cullen after the game, which will further add to his confidence.

The performances by these young men have many benefits, such as bringing the best out of the more seasoned players.

Noel Reid is bringing a rich vein of form, while Ben T'eo is becoming a rugby union player now with the power play advantage of the league game.

All this, coupled with Isa Nacewa's experience, will give Cullen ideal selection headaches when the prodigals return.

A winning team is a happy team and a happy team will normally keep winning.

The environment in Leinster seems a lot more settled than it has done in a few seasons.

Younger players can get used to winning games and therefore don't carry the baggage of the senior players.

The recent confirmation of Girvan Dempsey as backs coach will also bring stability to the province.

Girvan coached and mentored a lot of the players in their academy days, and the respect among the team and staff for him is unparalleled.

When Leinster were at their trophy-winning best, they had an incredible work ethic in training and at game-time.

This work ethic developed a confidence that what they practised in training, would succeed in the game itself.


So far, the team are gaining the rewards from their midweek work.

Cardiff and the Dragons have been at the wrong end of some of this play over the last two games.

Leinster have found a standard of performance that they cannot dip below.

With this current crop, now including Rhys Ruddock and Marty Moore, the next test away to the Scarlets cannot come quick enough.

Sooner or later, the World Cup contingent will return, and the battle for places is going to heat up.

But, it is clear after back-to-back performances at home that this squad is moving forward in a manner even the most optimistic of us couldn't have imagined.

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