Sunday 17 December 2017

Victor Costello: Discipline problem must be fixed ahead of watershed clash for new coaching set-up

Stuart Lancaster is sure to have had preconceptions about Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Stuart Lancaster is sure to have had preconceptions about Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

The return of the Ireland internationals is keeping fans' interest ticking over, with Johnny Sexton back for this evening's home clash against Ospreys.

More big names are due back over the coming weeks, including Sean O'Brien who if fit, will come in for the derby clash against Munster and then the attack on Europe.

Intensity levels at training will increase as the competition for places hots up.

As good as last week's win away to Edinburgh was in terms of league progression, tonight's game in the RDS will show that the season is well and truly under way.

The Ospreys game will be the toughest this season to date, and Leinster are still carrying the hangover of previous seasons in their patterns of play.

Stuart Lancaster will have had preconceived ideas about Leinster and indeed Irish rugby before coming over here, and two games in now, he will feel a need to translate his ideas onto the pitch.

With no excuses and a full uninterrupted pre-season schedule, each coach should have had the necessary time with the players to bed in their ideas for the year ahead.

Hopefully Lancaster does not want to change the world but rather add to the structure and style of play within the squad.

The performance graph has been steadily rising but there are areas that must improve. Discipline has been an ongoing problem over the past few seasons.

Leinster exposed Glasgow when they had a man sin-binned two weeks ago but were unable to work conversely when Dan Leavy was yellow-carded last weekend.

If you are a man down, get control of possession and slow the game down - or else don't be a man down in the first place. Players are giving away penalties and risking yellow cards far too easily.

Early in the game Mike Ross gave a penalty away that got Edinburgh into the game and in the 10 minutes Leavy was off the pitch, the Scots gained a real foothold.

If you have to give a penalty away, it shows that you simply do not trust the personnel or structures around you.

Let the opposition have the ball and have trust in your defensive patterns.

As the camera panned to Lancaster over the last few games, he was deep in thought; it will be interesting to see the outcome of this pondering.

As expected Murrayfield was half empty. The eerie silence was all too familiar.

Defensively Leinster were active but you can see that the structures are still not in place. There were too many holes for Edinburgh to easily penetrate and for a period of time, it was obvious that the Scots' performance levels dropped to a standard three levels below this league.

In attack, Leinster dominated with power from the left wing through Dave Kearney and finesse from full-back and right wing positions from both Isa Nacewa and Zane Kirchner.

As mentioned before here, clean ball from the set-pieces can be utilised by a potent backline.

If all this falls into place, Leinster can compete in Europe this season, but one can also judge them with emotion aside.


If I were the opposition, I would attack them in the lineout and scrums to disrupt their try-scoring ability out wide.

In crucial times of the game, the lineout malfunctions and as the games get tougher, those crucial times end up being the full 80 minutes.

There are players than can turn games on their own and Leinster have them in abundance. Watching the Edinburgh game, you could only imagine what Robbie Henshaw will add to the backline with his power up the middle.

With the Ospreys game, there will be a focus on the internationals on both sides and how their performance augurs for the Six Nations and the Lions tour.

For Leinster, this will be a test of character at home but with a full house in the RDS after two weeks on the road, it will be a watershed moment for the new coaching set-up and this season's ambitions.

Irish Independent

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