Saturday 16 December 2017

Molony's drive stands out in Blues engine-room

Leinster's Ross Molony
Leinster's Ross Molony
Leinster’s Ross Molony, right, and his team-mates look on as Bryan Cullen, strength & conditioning coach, records squad training in Belfield

Marcus Ó Buachalla

For a man new to this rugby lark Ross Molony is at ease with himself. Still a member of the Leinster Academy but very much in the mix for tonight's visit of Pro12 champions Glasgow Warriors to the RDS.

"I'm really enjoying it at the moment. Last year was about first steps and I got the chance to come off the bench," says the 21-year-old second-row. "I was delighted to get a few runs in the Pro12, and then you look to kick on again.

"At the moment it's a great mix with a lot of us younger lads and then a few older lads in there so you are constantly learning and every day I am coming off the training pitch buzzing because I really feel that we are all developing hugely during this period."

The conventional wisdom suggests that locks only start to mature physically by their late 20s so the young UCD man has some way to go, but he is in no rush.

"Of course I'm happy to have been involved in the first four games of the season. But it isn't a defining moment either in my career I don't think," he says.

"With Devin (Toner) away and then Kane (Douglas) leaving, I looked upon it as a block of games where game-time and experience could be got and stored away.


"With Devin coming back in now and Hayden (Triggs) coming in, the competition just got tougher but I have to look at the bigger picture too.

"Working with Mike (McCarthy) and Dev, it's a great opportunity to learn from them and I've had a great week training with Hayden and the experience that he brings from playing with the Maori All Blacks and in Super Rugby - a new perspective."

With so many players at the World Cup, there was the chance that standards at Leinster HQ would slip. Not so, Molony maintains.

"The culture that Leo Cullen and the coaches have created is excellent. It's not like 'senior squad there and Academy squad there'," he stresses.

"I look at it as one big squad with players able to fill roles on any given weekend for the senior team or the Leinster A team.

"We all want one of those jerseys but there is only so many to go around so if you're released back to your club in the AIL, that's fine. You get your work-ons from the coaching staff and you get game-time under your belt and you come in the next week ready to put the hand up again.

"It's an environment and a culture that I'm really enjoying."

While the above is all well and good, and in the long term no doubt Molony and Leinster will benefit, but 20 players out of any team will have an impact. Have there been harsh lessons along the way?

"Of course. Just look at the first 20 minutes against Scarlets last weekend. Or even look at our first game away to Edinburgh. We were in that game, had chances but didn't take them," he says.

"And then you end up with two losses to your name. That hurts."

To that end what will they be trying to put right tonight against Glasgow?

"Our start is key and then our ball focus. Really appreciating the opportunities that come our way because you can't let them slip away," says Molony.

"We saw against Scarlets that if you don't take yours, quality opposition will. So yes, we've probably struggled at times.

"But we are young and we are confident in our own abilities but we also know that we have a lot of learning left to do. Sometimes you have to get out there and experience the hard times to enjoy the good moments even more when it does click and it does come off."

Glasgow arrive with a similar track record to Leinster with two wins and two losses, but have picked up two bonus points in their losses.

"In some ways it's hard to analyse them as it depends who is released from the Scottish squad, but we will do most of the work on ourselves because if we can perform we believe in our abilities and that we will be there or thereabouts," says Molony.

"But they have some real quality in the squad at the moment and then players like Leone Nakarawa due to come back in. He was superb for Fiji during the World Cup, a real spark for them. They seemed to get go forward ball off everything he did so if he plays it's important for us to go low and get him to deck before he gets going.

"But they have threats everywhere so we can't just focus on one player. Gregor Townsend has them playing lovely rugby regardless of who starts so we just have to bring our own game to the fore."

Part of Molony's own game that has caught the eye is that he has been calling the lineouts, bearing in mind he has started beside more experienced players like McCarthy and Tom Denton.

"On match weeks it's a huge part of my focus. You would be looking at opposition space and where we can win the ball," he says. "I've been calling the lineout since school and enjoy the pressure of it.


"When it goes right it gives everyone a great platform and it can be very easy. but huge work goes into getting to that point by the pack during the week."

Has he sought out the experience of his head coach, a former exponent of the second-row dark arts?

"Of course. Leo was so important for Leinster over the years. His leadership was second to none. How he carried himself, how he drove the team, how he dealt with referees," says Molony.

"I've tapped into him and his knowledge bank. He takes us second-rows to one side and he presents a picture and you know he's pretty much seen it all so you definitely take it in."

Glasgow tonight but what then? It's going to be a busier locker-room next week.

"I'll keep doing what I'm doing. I'll keep working. Keep fighting for my place. It's great that the senior lads are back but you've fought so hard for the jersey you want to make it difficult to hand back," says Molony.

"But ultimately I want to keep pushing the lads that are coming back in, keep driving the standards because that drives my standards and hopefully then Leinster benefits. And that is what we all want."

Irish Independent

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