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'We shared quite a bit of information with them' - How Leinster are learning from one of rugby's greatest teams

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Leinster scrum coach Robin McBryde reports that Dan Leavy is close to a full return from his long-term injury and could make his comeback this month. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster scrum coach Robin McBryde reports that Dan Leavy is close to a full return from his long-term injury and could make his comeback this month. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster scrum coach Robin McBryde reports that Dan Leavy is close to a full return from his long-term injury and could make his comeback this month. Photo: Sportsfile

For a team on a crusade to seek perennial improvement, perhaps Leinster's lockdown exchange of intellectual property with the Crusaders was more than merely a coincidence of nomenclature.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em; or, rather, if denied the chance to beat 'em, what harm in swapping notes with the aim of maintaining respective dominance of the club game north and south of the equator?

Crusaders are three-time Super Rugby champions and, although Leinster's European supremacy has been interrupted, many suspect they will regain their rightful place on the throne later this year.

There were fanciful discussions during lockdown that the two sides might meet each other in global combat - an idea that seems just as far-fetched now when a 51-week rugby season lies ahead of us all.

So, for now, they must rely on doing their best to help themselves beat the rest, rather than each other.

Returned

"We shared quite a bit of information with them at the start of the lockdown period," revealed assistant coach Robin McBryde, who returned to this country recently alongside senior head coach Stuart Lancaster, as the clock ticks down to this month's Aviva date with Munster.

"So that was over a month of Zoom calls. I'm still in touch with Jason Ryan, their forwards coach. It's great to share ideas and explore different ways of doing things.

"Between us all, it's about continually being curious and asking questions of how we can improve. Obviously, because of what happened, we need to try and get back to where we were as quickly as we can and then hopefully kick on from there. You can't stand still because once you start standing still and resting on your laurels, you're going to be sitting up pretty quick."

Former Scarlet and Wales hooker McBryde will maintain a sense of contact with the Crusaders. His erstwhile playing partner for club and country, Mark Jones, is now an assistant with the Christchurch side after succeeding Ronan O'Gara as defence coach.

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McBryde stressed the importance of making the most of their enforced absence. "We're still striving for perfection," says McBryde. "It's pretty impossible. As someone has said, you'll never get perfection but excellence is about as close to that as what you'll get.

"So for us, it's trying to continue in the pursuit of that excellence and that perfect game really. You always try and stay one or two steps ahead."

Dan Leavy's personal lockdown lasted longer than most but after his miraculous recovery from the shocking multi-ligament knee injury that threatened to end his career, Leinster say that the flanker is on course to face Munster when rugby resumes later this month.

An empty Aviva Stadium will provide an eerie backdrop to his comeback but for the Dubliner it will prove a soothing balm after the shattering silence that engulfed the packed stadium as he lay prone on the field against Ulster in the 2019 Champions Cup quarter-final.

An intra-squad game with Leinster will mark the final test of his capability for the fray after McBryde confirmed the squad's return to full contact training this week.

"Definitely," asserted the Welshman when asked if Leavy might see game-time this month. "He has trained well. It's just unfortunate that it's really gradual and you keep on getting closer and closer to that 100 per cent.

"He's returning from a long-term injury so the nature of that is you're going to err on the side of caution more often than not, but he's trained fantastically well."


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