Thursday 23 November 2017

Victor Costello: Leinster's pride and passion will catch big-spending Montpellier off guard

Luke McGrath’s speed around the breakdown gives Leinster an edge on the gain-line. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Luke McGrath’s speed around the breakdown gives Leinster an edge on the gain-line. Photo: SPORTSFILE

Victor Costello

The win over Munster will not keep the traditionalists happy but it has galvanised Leinster somewhat ahead of the Montpellier clash tomorrow.

Munster are not the team they should be and over the years were always greater than the sum of their parts.

Individually they are performing and will provide competition for places for the November internationals but collectively they are struggling.

This is causing frustration that if channelled correctly will serve Munster well this weekend against Castres.

Leinster beat their old foes this time with a stride and this will satisfy the Blues fans. I have always said these two clubs need each other to be performing.

European and PRO14 chiefs lick their lips at the prospect of the coffers collection but for the players the game derives its culture from the amateur era.

For Munster it is tough to listen to a coach that will be leaving in a few months and the medium to long-term result of this match doesn't really matter. The fact of the matter is, in a year's time this match will still matter to Leo Cullen, not to Rassie Erasmus.

This lack of continuity is affecting their game and other provinces can learn to avoid this in the future.

Leinster have been somewhat disjointed recently but there are positive signs that they have turned the corner on an erratic and rusty start to the season.

With Munster in their faces, particularly in the midfield, Leinster showed composure, although a third intercept pass in as many games will be more costly tomorrow if allowed to happen again.

Munster had done their homework on Leinster's performance the week before but this time the midfield partnership of Robbie Henshaw and Rory O'Loughlin not only shored up the holes but looked like a partnership for the season,

The Monday review of this game would have given management the satisfaction that selection in key areas is paying off.

The front-five performed well with the set-pieces improving but more time needs to be put into the lineout as it's still a vulnerable area.

Going into Europe, Leinster will build their team around the performing units.

Against Montpellier, the Henshaw and O'Loughlin partnership will be the physical front-line which will release the back-three into space.

With the front-five picking itself bar the hooker, the back-row selection will be the make or break of this game.

Luke McGrath was my man-of-the-match and it was timely against Conor Murray and ahead of tomorrow's duel with Ruan Pienaar.

McGrath's speed to and from the breakdown gave Leinster the edge on the gain line and Josh van der Flier very much facilitated this by his effective recycling.

With Van der Flier stable at seven, all Leinster need is another lineout option at six and a ball carrier at eight and they will be ready for Europe.

Montpellier are a better side than they were last year but the mantra should remain the same.

Leinster are a more pure side than the French and although Cullen has recently lamented the contrast in both budgets, he knows well that Leinster will win this home game.

This clash will be a bought team versus a home-grown team.

In rugby, passion and belief mean a lot to a team's performance and one cannot buy that.

There are some big names in the Montpellier side and coaching staff. Nathan Hines will have an idea on what to expect from Leinster but the French side packed with South Africans are still vulnerable on the road.

As much as we look at the Montpellier team, we have to look at our own players.

Leinster have the best front-row in the world, not just in their set pieces but also in open play and behind them a plethora of Lions past, present and future.

Rest assured that Leinster are the envy of French teams and tomorrow's result will be the first step on the road to the play-offs next year where they will have the opportunity and experience to get right what they got wrong last season.

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