Wednesday 12 December 2018

Victor Costello: 'Leinster's young guns are playing so well that we have to be excited about future'

James Lowe in action against Ospreys last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile
James Lowe in action against Ospreys last weekend. Photo: Sportsfile

Victor Costello

There will always be trepidation when there's a temporary changing of the guard and last Friday night's game was no different to other low-key and supposedly under-resourced outings.

With the game at home and the RDS full of the Leinster faithful, the road was clear for the youth to prove their worth.

With all of the disruptions of the November internationals, Leinster would have always had to dig deep for this round of games, but as it transpired this squad paid back the investment and faith from the management with a bonus-point haul over a what once was a strong Welsh side.

When Leinster play at home with a poor start, it is always important to get back into the game as soon possible. For the inexperienced players, this is often difficult and it normally requires an experienced player to be the catalyst in the change of play.

On this occasion it required both as Ciarán Frawley and Scott Fardy combined to put Conor O'Brien into space to open the floodgates.

It was then we got to see the future of Leinster Rugby and it would be hard not to be excited about what is ahead in the coming years.

Impressed The display of talent was across all positions and while the youth impressed with the likes of Scott Penny, Frawley and Conor O'Brien, the sprinkle of senior players enjoyed their outing at home with the apprentices. James Lowe was everywhere while carrying a smile as he sauntered through the Ospreys defence.

Individually and eventually collectively, Leinster performed and kept the standard as high as what is ideally required when the front-liners are away on international duty.

If we are being honest, the Ospreys were finished after 40 minutes. As much as head coach Allen Clarke did his homework on Leinster, he has done less on his own side. The Ospreys came out of the blocks well then faded away.

Their game-plan was one-dimensional and their set-piece moves were archaic. They were pretty good at finding gaps in open play but one of Leinster's greatest attributes is their mental strength in playing the long game of multi-phase play.

A long time ago in Irish Rugby, if you got within a whiff of the try-line you tried to score; however, over the years patience has crept in and Leinster particularly can keep their shape better than any other side in Europe over many phases of open play.

This wears teams down, both mentally and physically. Last Friday night you could see the Ospreys defence falling apart and while their structure declines on the pitch, mentally the players lose confidence.

The new culture in Leinster is to increase the intensity of the game when they smell blood.

It was proven last week that even the inexperienced players know how to take control of a game, highlight weaknesses of the opposition and exploit them, keeping a high standard and respect in the jersey they wear now and in the future.

Some seasons ago there was a concern as to the standard of the PRO14 campaign.

The competition's marketeers maintained that it had a core value in the day-to-day seasons of the Celtic, Italian and now South African nations. In recent times the PRO14 has become more competitive and combative and Leinster have gained more than any club from its weekly outings.

Other clubs struggle with the repetitive nature of the competition and its drain on the player resources whereas Leinster now use it as a foundation for greater performance at the pool stages and a breeding ground for their vast senior and academy squads.

The flip side of this is sometimes the lack of quality of the opposition they meet weekly and while there are other clubs going through transition and nations dealing with the ebb and flow of their national squads, Leinster need to keep their high standard no matter who they play and where.

Inconsistent This weekend they travel to Rodney Parade. The Dragons are a team and management under fire and wildly inconsistent.

Without taking any away game for granted in this conference, this will be a great opportunity to maximise points.

Leinster will also need to keep an eye on the away fixture to Bath the following week. The return of the international squad will not happen overnight so they have to box clever in selection over the next two games.

Bath themselves are not setting the world alight with their performances this season.

The silly season has begun early this season and the national management decisions at international level will lead to some speculation and doubt at provincial level.

It seems like a long season so far and it's still only November but yet there have been plenty of triumphs at all levels already.

With expectation high for club and country, Leinster will need maturity and razor-like focus to maintain the nation's hopes at the latter parts of this World Cup season.

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