Sport Rugby

Thursday 22 March 2018

Leinster will hope to learn a lot about where they stand after Monpellier clash

Jordi Murphy and Leinster could face a quarter-final against Exeter Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Jordi Murphy and Leinster could face a quarter-final against Exeter Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Victor Costello

Rarely in the recent history of Irish existence in European rugby is the game over 20 minutes in.

The quest for ruthlessness as the competition gets tighter will become harder and harder but as the scoreboard became lopsided last Sunday, the lessons from the game disappeared as the clock wound down.

Leo Cullen admitted after the game that some of Leinster's flaws were masked by the overall performance of the team and it was hard to get a true observation of how his side were playing.

In normal circumstances, the same would be expected this weekend with Montpellier having little to play for, but the French side are proud of their home record and Leinster desperately need a true value of their form before the next European break.

With all the euphoria and expectation in the air, the squad will only have to revisit last season's semi-finals to dampen the distracting positivity.

Who needs sports psychologists as those thoughts alone are enough to bring the players back down to earth.

Leinster were in flying form pre-knockout stage with their regular youthful team not knowing anything but a 30-point victory in the RDS with something similar on the road.

With the quarter-final in the bag, the other permutations don't really matter, as if you have desires to win this cup you have to win on the road.

This is something Leinster are very capable of doing and this game will be ideal to get that ball rolling.

The Montpellier squad is deep like Leinster's and it will be interesting to see how much Cullen's side have improved since their last trip to this ground.

Unfortunately, in most sports you can find out more about a team in losing rather than winning.

For Leinster, this year there has been slim pickings and certainly there are no games in the season or either campaign that a team can afford to ship a loss. They currently don't know their weak points.

There were a lot of bruised egos coming back into the side for the play-offs after a lacklustre Six Nations.

In the Munster-Leinster game recently in Thomond Park, the home side got a hold of the game in the early part of the second half and Leinster had no answer for 20 minutes.

If Jordan Larmour hadn't turned the game with his sensational try, what would the outcome have been for Leinster? These are the questions that need to be answered now and not come April or May.

For the first time in history, a tight game will suit Leinster, not in the short-term but in the medium-term. They need to be put under pressure to see if they crack or react.

In the past few seasons after Leinster's European success, there has been a focus on every game like it's the last.

They still managed to get into play-off territory even when playing badly.

This season their play has been superb and yet less fulfilling.

Jordi Murphy's try early in the game against Glasgow was the prerequisite for a home thumping and midway through the first half the preparation for the Montpellier game began.

Still, Leinster have got used to winning and when a team have that mentality, they're very hard to stop.

With the Six Nations around the corner, naturally attention will shift but across the board Leinster are playing in unity and yet have some great individual talent.

The main difference between Leinster this year and last year is that players are thinking on their feet.

Their set-pieces and continuity play are affording the half-backs more time on the ball and therefore better decisions are being made and then executed by their talent out wide.

The only way to stop them will be to starve them of possession. However, scrums are near perfection, once the front-row remain consistent and the only further issues are the lineout inconsistencies and some recent discipline issues.

This weekend Leinster will need to accentuate their positives but what's really needed is Montpellier to accentuate Leinster's negatives.

Irish Independent

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