| 2.7°C Dublin

LeRoux's impact felt after debut for Leinster


Ollie Le Roux is tackled by Ulster's Rory Best and Kieron Dawson during last Friday's Magners League tie at Ravenhill.

Ollie Le Roux is tackled by Ulster's Rory Best and Kieron Dawson during last Friday's Magners League tie at Ravenhill.

Ollie Le Roux is tackled by Ulster's Rory Best and Kieron Dawson during last Friday's Magners League tie at Ravenhill.

The word 'impact' has dominated Ollie Le Roux's long career -- 43 of his 54 caps for South Africa came off the bench -- but rarely has his impact been as dramatic as the 34-year-old's dynamic debut for Leinster against Ulster last Friday night.

The Leinster pack produced a first-half display which suggested they might finally have a forward unit to reckon with, and Le Roux was at the heart of it all.

It was something of a surprise when the loosehead prop's name was included on the starting XV rather than on the replacements' bench for the Ravenhill clash, but there was no sign of waning powers as Le Roux dominated his scrummaging tussle with Bryan Young -- and was the visitors' most prolific ball-carrier, usually requiring at least two Ulstermen to haul him down.

"For me to start like that, hopefully it's a standard that I have set and (will) build up from there, earning more respect," said Le Roux at yesterday's squad announcement for Friday night's Magners League clash with Connacht at the RDS.

"I want to prove that I am a good rugby player and that I'll be a good asset to the Leinster rugby team. There's a lot of pressure not to be seen as over the hill, or that you've come for the pay package. I am very passionate about my rugby. That's the last thing I want people to think," he added, referring to some misgivings about his signing following Australian Owen Finegan's less-than-successful spell at Leinster, having been recruited when he was clearly past his best.

He has been here less than two weeks but Leinster's set-up has impressed the South African.

"It's very different from South Africa, but the whole set up with the gym and everything is incredible, right up there with the best I have seen. The players you got here, so many would fit into a Super 14 team, the talent and stuff is here.

"I have played with Shane (Horgan) and Brian (O'Driscoll) and Mal (O'Kelly) for the Barbarians, and, when I heard they were at Leinster, I said I would definitely come. I know the class of player they are and the kind of club that's here," he added.


"You feel a bit isolated as a foreigner here. You come here and you don't have any friends. That requires a bit of adaptation. My wife's gone shopping today, so she'll be happy.

"My kids are used to more open spaces. I actually went and drove into the country just to see some sheep and horses. My kids went 'Can we ride the horses?' I have to find some place where they can do that.

"It's an adventure at the end of the day. It's an incredible opportunity for me to try something else and learn from your culture. To play in the Heineken Cup and (face) sides like Toulouse and Leicester Tigers who everyone rates highly; to just see how good they really are is a great challenge for me."

Le Roux was named in Michael Cheika's squad yesterday for the Connacht clash, identical to that named before the 16-16 draw with Ulster -- meaning no Felipe Contepomi.

However, Cheika revealed that the Argentina star's absence is not injury-related, and that Contepomi is travelling home to Argentina to attend his brother's wedding.

Cheika, although disappointed with not winning in Ravenhill, after being 13-0 ahead shortly after half-time, feels his men can build on their display.

"We were disappointed not getting the four points, because I thought we did well enough to get them, but the performance was very pleasing."

Leinster will be favourites to beat Connacht on Friday, but Cheika has been impressed with Michael Bradley's outfit, who held Edinburgh to a draw at the Sportsground last Friday.

"They have become a serious competitor week in week out. They play together as a team. I don't think the old 'chip on the shoulder' is there much anymore, because they play at a high level against the same opponents as us," said Cheika.

"They've bought smartly with Johnny O'Connor and Mel Deane, and Tim Donnelly, who I know from Australia, is good at orchestrating the game. They've changed Conor McPhillips into a half-back, which is smart, and their second rows are very effective.

"Everyone knows that they're a very competitive outfit."

LEINSTER (squad v Connacht) -- S Wright, B Jackman, B Blaney, O le Roux, J Francisco Gomez, S Knoop, L Cullen; M O'Kelly, D Toner, S Keogh, K Gleeson, S Jennings, J Heaslip, K McLaughlin, C Whitaker, C Willis, J Sexton, C Warner, M Berne, G D'Arcy, Brian O'Driscoll, L Fitzgerald, R Kearney, G Brown, S Horgan, G Dempsey.