Sunday 17 November 2019

'Going from Ireland back into your province is quite difficult. It can upset your rhythm'

Johnny Sexton returned to Leinster training this week after the World Cup. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Johnny Sexton returned to Leinster training this week after the World Cup. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

As the Rugby World Cup drifts into the horizon for another four years, the reintegration of the Irish squad back into their provinces will take another step in this weekend’s PRO14.

With the clash of Connacht and Leinster on Friday in the Showgrounds followed by Munster and Ulster on Saturday in Thomond, the fact that local bragging rights are up for grabs should see a number of players looking to shake off their World Cup disappointment by attempting to get one over on some of those they’ve spent the last three months living with.

And while the derbies have come around too quickly for Fergus McFadden, who’s nursing an elbow injury, the Leinster wing was delighted to see his teammates return and believes a swift return to the action is the best way to ditch the World Cup hangover.

"It’s been great to see them back," McFadden told The Left Wing in association with Aldi, on his final appearance on Independent ie’s rugby podcast after providing analysis throughout the World Cup.

"It’s funny when you’re watching guys away playing for Ireland, you want them to succeed massively but it’s kind of strange because you know them so well.

"It’s a different type of emotion than when you’re watching people you’re not connected to, the likes of Keith Wood or Simon Geoghegan, as a young fella. It’s hard to describe.

"We’re all very disappointed to see them not do as well as we would have liked but them coming back... we’re so tight from the youngest guy to the oldest guy. It’s a very tight squad and you can see that in the way we play and the way people show up for each other week on week.

"So seeing those guys after two or three months was a great thing and it’s a refresher for the squad as well. I’d like to think it’ll be a real bonus going into these European games after the Connacht match."

However, McFadden also sounded a warning as players readjust to being back in their old camp having been away so long. With those vital European games around the corner, time is limited to get any ricks out of the system with this weekend the only opportunity for match practice before Leinster's Heineken Champions Cup opener against Bennetton. 

And McFadden believes getting those players playing straight away is key.

"From talking to the guys who’ve come back from the World Cup, they’re dying to play," he added.

"Coming back into a new set-up after a very disappointing World Cup campaign compared to what they would have wanted is a chance to make a fresh start and turn a new leaf," he added.

"They’re coming back into a winning culture that they left after winning the PRO14 last year and playing some great rugby. They’ve come back in and I’m sure they’ll be just looking to get back into the same systems, the same moves.

"But there’s different calling systems. Going from Ireland back into your province is quite difficult because you’ve been ingrained in those moves and all that chat around what you’re doing with Ireland for a certain amount of time. It’s the same stuff but it’s just different wordings. It can upset your rhythm a little bit.

"When you call a few things to certain guys who’ve been in the Leinster camp for a while or vice versa it can get a bit frustrating. To get that knocked out of those guys this week will be a good thing."

For Connacht, it’s a first return to the group stage since 2016/17 and while McFadden will miss out himself, he expects the westerners to provide a stern test for his side on Friday at a ground where last year’s champions have had mixed fortunes in the past.

"A couple of Connacht guys will be in the same boat," he concluded.

"I’m sure Jack Carty will be playing and he’ll be pivotal for Connacht. They’ve been a really tough obstacle for Leinster in the Sportsground.

"They’re playing great rugby under Andy Friend, who I really respect. He’s a great coach and seems a really good fella according to anyone that’s been coached by him."

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