Thursday 23 November 2017

Selection process seems to be more of a random shuffle than a think tank

Leo Cullen knows what Leinster must do to improve. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Leo Cullen knows what Leinster must do to improve. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Victor Costello

There have been some long journeys home in Leinster's history and this trip back from South Africa will certainly be up there.

The business of managing a squad in the modern game produces many challenges and when they make the management and players take their eye off the ball, the inevitable happens.

Leinster set off to the southern hemisphere with the right mindset of aiming to gain maximum points against the apparent league minnows, while also keeping an eye on the upcoming home games in the RDS and of course the start of the European campaign.

There is no doubt if the management could go back in time they would approach it differently with the priority being the task at hand but learning from mistakes is an all-too-common thread with this Leinster set-up.

All of the above would show expert management of a large squad involved in two campaigns but they are missing one vital component, which is winning the next game.

There is no doubt that this squad has got great depth but there are two major things missing to make them enter the history books: One is the ability to win games in cruise mode and the other is to react with structure when on the back foot.

Leinster need a trigger when the game is not going their way or when they lose a player to the sin bin or injury.

If they don't have control of the game, they suffer a cathartic symptom that seems to drain the clock away.

Awareness of the epidemic will be key to the trophy hunt over the next few seasons.

It is highly likely that last weekend's defeat will be just a blip but if the expected play-offs in May 2018 disappoint, there are glaring reasons why.

The selection process pleases 90pc of the personnel but the process seems to be more of a random shuffle than a think tank.

Leinster need to establish their best team and when some of that team are unavailable fill in the gaps on merit.

Last weekend, the hungry players fighting for places performed and those in the comfort zone did not.

Leinster did not respect the Cheetahs and this may have been based on the newcomers' previous games in the Guinness PRO14.

If you play the Springboks or a South African team, you never want to arm-wrestle them because you will never win the power game.

Leinster got embroiled in a physical battle that they were never going to win and leaked tries from set-pieces that were crumbling repetitively throughout.

They need to reconstruct their game starting at the set-pieces. It has to be easy to do this when you have the world's best front-row forwards in your armoury, coupled with the dynamic Seán Cronin and lineout aces across the board in the second-row, never mind the experience of Leo Cullen himself.

Following on from the poor set-pieces, the midfield play suffered and the unforced error count went through the roof.

Buzz

As seasons and generations pass the one thing that stays the same is the importance of scrum and lineouts - without them all the buzz words of modern-day phase rugby are obsolete .

This evening in the RDS, some of the squad players will have to step aside for their international and Lions colleagues.

There is no doubt that this is justified on this occasion but was not at the end of last season.

Leinster should have stepped forward this season on the recent tour but unfortunately they stepped backwards.

It was a tour that could have been to the club's benefit but it ended up being a relatively disappointing both on and off the pitch.

Leinster clearly need discipline in all areas and with penalties and dropped balls proving their frustratingly fragile mental state, the team needs to be restructured around their best and most consistent players no matter what's on their CV.

Irish Independent

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