Friday 23 March 2018

Victor Costello: United Leinster can see off a team that represents what's wrong in modern rugby

Jamie Heaslip is among those Leinster players whose experience will be crucial
Jamie Heaslip is among those Leinster players whose experience will be crucial

Victor Costello

This season has been anything but normal, but during a normal campaign, a postponed game like last weekend's against Glasgow would have been a welcome distraction against the usual repetitive grind of the Pro12.

With selection determined by the player management system and injury toll, the trip to Glasgow was only ever going to be functional and not glamorous.

There has never been a season with so much disruption and distraction in a confined period of time.

The World Cup, injuries and weather have been the top reasons so far and are further compounded by the speculation surrounding Ian Madigan and Ben Te'o's impending departure.

Contract negotiations cause a stress on a squad and a player. While every player is entitled to job security and to negotiate the best deal for himself, it is hard to expect a player to be 100pc focused on the job in hand while their future is uncertain in the jersey they are wearing.

Yes, the game is professional and contracts are part of this era but there should be an onus on agents to ensure that their players' contracts are wrapped up in time for the season, or else make decisions in a timely manner that allows the player and his team to prepare for a game without any outside stresses.

Regulation in this area is necessary and with this ongoing, Leinster from the outside could hardly be in worse shape entering into Champions Cup back-to-back fixtures.

Nevertheless, as with all games there is opportunity over the next few weeks. Ticket sales are continuing for the home game against Toulon.

So if Leinster can perform against the odds on Sunday, the return fixture in the Aviva will be extremely appetising.

There will be lots written about their recent outings and their lack of performance, but sometimes within the camp you have to leave the statisticians at the door.

Once again brave calls have to be made in selection. Early-season performers Josh van der Flier and Garry Ringrose are more than capable of performing in the hostile environment of Stade Mayol and there are arguments that they should be allowed to do so.

The experience of Jamie Heaslip, Mike McCarthy and Sean Cronin will need to be utilised.

Jonathan Sexton has more experience than most playing Toulon while at Racing 92, and after last season's moral victory in the semi-final clash, Leinster surely within their own four walls have nothing to fear.

Bar Toulon, you would have to say that Leinster have one of the best team sheets in the competition and while the past three seasons have caused frustration to the fans, these guys don't become bad players over night.

It is generally accepted that Leo Cullen will have and deserves more time, but as a coach his main role will stop before kick-off on Sunday.

He and Kurt McQuilkin, both former captains, will have plenty of motivational time with the team up to that point but it's the players that will need to embrace this challenge from the off.


There is nothing more satisfying in France than silencing the home crowd.

The underdog mentality -with the Blues being a united, home-built team, versus a gathering of outstanding individuals that represent what's wrong in modern rugby - will be Leinster's mantra entering the pitch.

This has been the first week this season that a provincial team was not explaining themselves about the previous week's games.

Yes of course Leinster did not play last weekend and there will be a certain hesitancy in the minds thinking they needed that game.

Being the only province that plays away this weekend will also contribute to the fact the Leinster need a season-turning performance, and Sunday is just another chance to do it.

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