Sunday 17 December 2017

McLaughlin: A win would ignite season

Leinster’s Ian Madigan, left, and Colm O’Shea go through their paces at the Aviva Stadium
yesterday Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster’s Ian Madigan, left, and Colm O’Shea go through their paces at the Aviva Stadium yesterday Picture: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Leinster's exit from Europe may be shortly confirmed but former skipper Kevin McLaughlin believes a first victory in four attempts over Toulon tomorrow would ignite their season.

Since being forced into early retirement in September, McLaughlin has kept close ties with Leinster and last weekend was brought to Toulon where he spoke to the players in the dressing room prior to kick-off.

Leo Cullen had named McLaughlin, a two-time Heineken Cup winner, as the province's captain, such is how highly he is regarded.

"I just talked about how we've had good days and bad over my time at Leinster," he said. "I talked about our ability to win under adversity and I talked about how beating a team like Toulon can be the spark that creates a new chapter, a new dynasty for the club.

"The opportunity is still there this weekend and it's something lads are talking about. Toulon are coming to the Aviva, there's going to be close to 45,000 people there and no one expects us to win.

"It's really difficult because when I talk about Leinster, I still talk about 'we' in a lot of ways because I am still kind of involved.

"I haven't moved on to a new job yet and I still see Leinster as my team and employers. I suppose there's an element of guilt there in that I was made captain, I was put in a leadership position.

"And especially because it was Leo's first year as a head coach, he's a good friend of mine, I wanted to do everything I could to support him.

"So there's an element of guilt, I'm wondering is there anything I can do, but it's well documented now that you can't take any chances with concussion."

McLaughlin will again watch on from the stands, a vantage point that he has sadly been forced to get used to but he insists that Leinster are in with a realistic chance of upsetting Toulon.

"I see it being a tight game. I see us having a great opportunity of winning if we execute better, because we were there or thereabouts last week," McLaughlin maintained. "But I also see Toulon realising that they need to play better, seeing as they are coming to the Aviva.

"They've already lost a game, they can't afford to lose another one. It's a massive game for both sides.

"We may be pretty much out of Europe at this stage, but I tell you what, you talk about playing for pride or playing to kick our season into gear, there's so much at stake for both teams. Because they need to win if they want to qualify as well. There's a huge amount at stake. Like we do every week, we'll back ourselves to win."

McLaughlin, who played alongside Cullen, admitted that he would always be happy to help out, whenever he has the time to do so.

"I'm not formally still involved in Leinster, but I did say to Leo if there's anything I can do before I start my job in January that I'd be happy to help out," he revealed.

"I was delighted to be able to go over to Toulon. It was an emotional enough time for me, being my last ever away trip.

"I was extremely disappointed for the lads, because from a physical and effort point of view, they literally could not put more into the game

"We all know that if you don't execute on your plays against a team like that, then you're not going to win."

McLaughlin and every other Leinster supporter alike will be desperate to see their side go one better tomorrow evening.

Irish Independent

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