Saturday 24 March 2018

Team spirit encourages McQuilkin

Leinster’s Marty Moore is tackled by Dan Leavy during squad training at UCD this week
Leinster’s Marty Moore is tackled by Dan Leavy during squad training at UCD this week

Michael Verney

Kurt McQuilkin is accentuating the positives as Leinster look to build on a second-half rally against the Scarlets last weekend and the imminent return to action of Ireland's World Cup players.

On the face of things, a 25-14 defeat away to Scarlets is a disappointing setback, but having trailed 25-0 in the early stages, Leo Cullen's side refused the Llanelli side a valuable bonus point and scored two tries without reply.

And with many Irish internationals being integrated back into the squad gradually after medical assessments, hopes are high with five Pro12 fixtures and four European Champions Cup ties coming up this side of Christmas.

With everything around them going wrong last Friday, defence coach McQuilkin is happy in the knowledge that Leinster didn't throw in the towel while the positive impact made by their substitutes encourages him.

"One thing I will say for them, and again from the defensive aspect, is they scrambled well for each other. I was really happy with the way, when we did get breached, they worked hard to get back," he said.

"The easiest thing would have been to put your hands up and go 'ah, you know, what the hell, someone's made a mistake'. But what they did, they got back, worked hard and recovered situations which could have cost us tries.

"A 25-0 head start was just too big to haul back but we were really impressed with the impact of some of the guys off the bench. They really came on and put their hands up."

Rhys Ruddock and Mike McCarthy both start tonight with Tadhg Furlong on the bench while another positive aspect has been the signing of former Maori All Black Hayden Triggs, who McQuilken feels is settling in well.

After watching Ireland's 23-point defeat to Argentina on Sunday, the defence coach got a huge sense of déjà vu, not only with their slow start but also how Leinster were similarly punished down the flanks.

"I think we got spooked early on with regards to their width and that had an effect as we went through the game," McQuilkin admitted. "We've identified where the problems were, and they're all very fixable.

"Really it's about getting your first hits in. Your first-up hits. Making those get you on the front-foot. We ended up just soaking up pressure. You're really waiting for someone to put in a big hit.

"If that big hit isn't coming, you then have to soak pressure for long periods. That hinders your line speed, and it's something that happened to us early on and we didn't really recover.

"We're looking forward to implementing those changes and others in the Glasgow match tonight."

McQuilkin acknowledges the necessity to win home games in the Pro12 and is happy with preparations but he knows a big task awaits against Gregor Townsend's Glasgow Warriors side.

After a sloppy start to the campaign, last year's Pro12 champions are finding their grove and he expects strong resistance as they search for four points.

"With Gregor, he's had had them for a while and got them into a really good attacking unit.

"We've identified a few areas we need to block off as a defensive unit in order to get a foot in the door, especially early on," he noted.

"We've looked at it as a coaching team and we bring some of our senior players in to have a look at it too.

"It's good to get other insights into what the opposition are doing and then we come out with a collective plan together.

"They'll only be stronger with guys coming back too. It's going to be a hell of an ask for our lads but it's a challenge we're going to embrace."

Irish Independent

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