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Six Nations run-outs for Deegan, Kelleher and Byrne will benefit Blues' season

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Ross Byrne can kick on at club level following his Six Nations stint. Photo: Sportsfile

Ross Byrne can kick on at club level following his Six Nations stint. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Ross Byrne can kick on at club level following his Six Nations stint. Photo: Sportsfile

The unfolding of this season seems to be in slow motion compared to most in the past. The reason for this is because it's the longest season in the history of the northern hemisphere game.

Since the start Leinster have been sitting pretty in both competitions and, as usual at the end of the Six Nations, they will be thrown into the knockout stages.

This top-table sitting gives Leinster confidence but as we have learned over the past decade European Champions Cup glory is not directly related to the performances on the pitch.

This time last year the many of the Leinster contingent in Irish camp were struggling to find form and had some dark days in what was normally a successful regime. They also had to be conscious of World Cup selection which was still a long six months down the road.

This situation would test the mental resolve of any professional, even more so when you can see your international coaches' demeanour change throughout this period.

When players returned to Leinster camp last season they needed to reboot themselves and most did, resulting in improved performances in the European play-offs, but it wasn't enough to ward off a Saracens onslaught.

Struggled

Post-Champions Cup they struggled once again in the World Cup warm-ups and the rest is history.

Roll back 15 months further and the IRFU wanted consistency after the Joe Schmidt era so they appointed Andy Farrell.

But the problem was they wanted continued success from the previous years not that year that was to follow. Players and team performances made the Irish rugby public request change in personnel but that was never in Farrell's manifesto.

We knew there would be inconsistencies in Irish selection.

Rhys Ruddock being the immediate casualty.

Caelan Doris, picked to start against Scotland, was a positive note as he looks to spend the next decade in Ireland's back-row.

While he may well have to wait for another day others have played themselves into contention.

If you were being ultra-critical you could say we have started a Six Nations campaign without our best Irish XV.

After the Scottish clash you could argue to bring Rob Kearney back into the mix after some poor back-three game management.

All is well now but if Leinster were to play Ireland there would be only one outcome.

This has happened before when club has played country and club prevailed but it was post-season as it was for the benefit of the province and its European campaign.

There is no doubt though that Max Deegan, Rónan Kelleher and Ross Byrne will benefit from their inclusion in this international series and their Six Nations experience will benefit Leinster come April.

The level of scrutiny on these earlier selections has waned and the fans are excited about what Ireland could achieve following two wins out of two.

But from a players' point of view, it will still prove the Leinster set-up is a more rewarding place to be than the international camp.

It is quite clear that, for the moment, the desire to be on the international scene is not what it used to be.

This change of priorities this season should be enough for the Blues to win trophies and with Saracens regularly shooting themselves in each foot the momentum is definitely with Leinster.

So far throughout this Six Nations players are playing with a sense of freedom but this is more of an individual progression rather than team progression.

There are not many calls or patterns that provincial players will need to forget in order to return to Leinster's game-plan.

You could probably say the same about the Irish defensive patterns. Andy Farrell deserves more time to add more structure but for now management and player relationship is at optimum level at the home province.

Mandatory

The recent three-week break for Leinster was mandatory but probably too long for those players wanting to keep up performance levels.

However, the Leinster squad is unlikely to be halted tomorrow against the Cheetahs even with Ruan Pienaar at the helm.

The South African side will be in a buoyant mood from their recent victories over the Southern Kings and will likely meet a rusty Leinster XV.

The Leinster management, of course, have also got a break; this gives them time to assess the next block of the Leinster season while the English and French clubs battle on in their domestic leagues.

The recent resurgence of French rugby will have the opposite affect on the club scene. Before, French players put club before country; this season, it's the opposite.

Throw in some recent French and English player injuries and it all bodes well for Leinster.

Irish Independent