Saturday 24 March 2018

More home comforts top agenda for Dundon

Aaron Dundon in action against Cardfif
Aaron Dundon in action against Cardfif
Aaron Dundon in action against Cardfif

Marcus Ó Buachalla

Aaron Dundon is a busy man. First up, he needs to make a house a home, his home. Away from the bright lights of Leinster Rugby, he is renovating the house he bought with his wife Katie a year ago. No easy task.

But making Leinster's home, the RDS, a fortress once again is also occupying his mind. No easy task either.

"We are very proud of our record at the RDS over the years but obviously we let that slip last season against these guys and while it was a tight game you look back on it and say we shouldn't have let that happen.

"We had periods in that game when we could and should have capitalised but we didn't. So it's on us to make sure that when teams come to the RDS that it is as difficult as possible for them to get the win. We've had one game against Cardiff but it's now about building on that performance."

'These guys' refers to the Newport Gwent Dragons, tomorrow's opponents in the RDS. Dundon came off the bench in the RDS fixture last season quite early for Richardt Strauss so saw at first-hand what they brought to the table.

"They have a very solid pack and the advantage they have is consistency of selection as they haven't been too badly hit by World Cup call-ups so maybe five of last year's pack could be up against us again.


"And then they've added real quality in the likes of Ed Jackson signed from Wasps and a quality South African scrum-half in Sarel Pretorius. So we've seen twice what they can do when given time and ball and we can't have that happen on Saturday."

His next reference to 'twice' is also pointed. Two months after the two-point loss in the RDS last season, the Dragons took more points off Leinster. A first time in their history to record a home-and-away double against Leinster. Again he was involved. Again it hurt.

"It's funny because as professionals you plan for every game on its own merits. You analyse teams and you look for ways in which to go after them. You look at every angle so methodically from your own side and from theirs but there is always that human element.

"And for us this season, we definitely feel that there is an element of pride dented and of wanting to set a record straight. Don't get me wrong, good luck to them, they got their wins but we feel that there were elements to our performances that didn't click and it's now back on us to make sure that we put that right on Saturday."

Leo Cullen is again expected to go for a blend of youth and experience. Dundon is in his fifth season with Leinster and the 33-year-old fits the experience bracket. He is excited by the mix he sees around him.

"I think we have gelled well as a group. Obviously it is difficult to adjust to 17 guys being away but everyone has bought in to the process and have contributed. Nobody is surprised though. We've seen these guys in and around the environment the last few years and I've played games with some of them in the B&I Cup so we know what they are about."

Dundon is in a three-way scrap with two young guns fresh from the Academy for the Leinster No 2 jersey but the Clontarf man is holding firm despite the pressure from Bryan Byrne and James Tracy.

"It's the same with all the lads in any position. You have to be tested and to be fair we are all pushing each other to be as good as possible. If the team benefits from that competition then everyone wins. Regardless of who pulls on the jersey we are all striving for that performance at the weekend and hopefully the win.

"But so far I have been happy. Obviously I want to push on a bit more now. The big frustration is playing two games and then having a break because match fitness is a huge part of any rugby player's DNA so you need that continuity. Just as we were getting going, we had a week off. More time to work on my house rather than on my game! But I just want to push on now and keep improving.

"We need to get back to where we left off. Improve on Edinburgh, improve on Cardiff and hope that the curve keeps going upwards."

While he may have inexperience pushing him hard in Leinster he will have the complete opposite coming at him on Saturday. Thomas Rhys Thomas, the Dragons captain and former Welsh hooker with 27 Welsh caps, lines up across from him. Dundon is looking forward to the challenge. "You want to test yourself against the best and I suppose as a hooker you have the scrum and that hit, the lineouts and then just general play.

"Rhys Thomas has played in World Cups and Six Nations so he has seen it all really and you look forward to that one on one element. For me it really focuses the mind knowing you are going out against a player of his calibre and you need to be right on it to ensure that you bring your A game."

While on Saturday his focus will be solely on matters in the RDS, post-game he'll be straight onto the phone and Tom Clifford Park will take over.


"Yeah I'm involved with Clontarf as forwards coach and I'm really enjoying it. I suppose my first year with them was difficult as I knew a lot of them, played with them etc and they were a bit wary maybe of what I was trying to get across but that has improved hugely and I am more confident too in what I am about. We've had a good start to the season but Young Munster away is no easy place to go so I'll be thinking of the lads and how they get on. But only after our game!"

His Clontarf team are currently on three wins from three after impressive wins over UCD, Old Belvedere and Ballynahinch and the step up to senior rugby as opposed to schools rugby where he coached Newbridge was also an eye-opener.

"In school they hang on your every word nearly! They take it all in, they are just so hungry for information. Whereas with coaching senior set-ups I suppose and in particular in a set-up in Clontarf where I played with most of the lads it's difficult. But as I said I've loved it and I think I am better at it now than I was and I think we're going well so far. But very early days yet."

New house. Renovations. Dragons. Young Munster. But you know what they say? If you want something done, give it to a busy man.

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