Friday 23 August 2019

Ruddock focused on Leinster's 'must-win' game against Scarlets

Jimmy Gopperth in action alongside Shane Jennings during training at UCD this week. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Jimmy Gopperth in action alongside Shane Jennings during training at UCD this week. Photo: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Rhys Ruddock is adamant that Leinster's Irish players selected to play against Scarlets tomorrow must put the Six Nations to the back of their minds as they look to get back to winning ways.

During the same period last year, Leinster's fringe players excelled in the five league games they played but this season they have found it a lot tougher.

With under a month to go until the Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath, Ruddock knows that places are up for grabs in the Leinster side but he is eager to also put that to one side in a bid to gain vital momentum before the intensity levels go up a notch for the latter part of the season.

Ruddock, who returned from an arm injury in the draw against Ospreys last weekend, is determined to get Leinster's season back on a track in a game that he described as a "must-win".

"The main driving factor for us is the fact that we've been looking to put a big performance together," Ruddock said.

"Usually, in these four weeks, we really come together. Last year, we had 19 points from 20. This year, we're disappointed with the way things have gone so far.

"To get a draw in Ospreys, we hadn't won there in this league since three or four years ago.

"Our main motivation is putting a big performance in and making up for the disappointment that we've had prior to this," he added.

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Matt O'Connor's hand is strengthened by the return of several Ireland internationals but Ruddock insisted that Leinster's poor performances have been as a result of a poor collective team effort rather than individuals letting the side down.

Nevertheless, the 24-year-old believes that the squad has spent enough time training together now to put in more consistent performances on the pitch.

"Our performance levels haven't been good enough this year," he admitted.

"As to why that is, we've just been too inaccurate. It's always troublesome when you go from having a team that plays together regularly to bringing in new faces.

"It's not that the lads haven't stepped up individually. It's more the collective performance. We haven't got that same accuracy we had prior to this period.

"I think three weeks training together, and three games together, hopefully is enough to put things right this weekend."

After missing 10 weeks with a broken arm, Ruddock is staying positive about his own fitness as well as the team's performances.

Having gone through the video of last Friday's draw, the versatile back-row maintained that there were plenty of positive aspects for his side to take into tomorrow's clash.

"As a team, we went out with the mindset that there was a lot of room for improvement," he said. "I think we made a step in the right direction in a lot of areas but we know that we still have a long way to go if we want to be at the level that we set ourselves.

"As a group we took a lot of positives from the attitude we brought into the game and we need to move that forward into closing the game out this weekend.

"I think it will be a similarly tough challenge against Scarlets going away again. We've a lot to work on but there were a lot of positives we took out of the game.

"We're going in the right direction but a win is a must this weekend."

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