Friday 25 May 2018

Luke Fitzgerald weighs in on the selection headaches facing Leinster ahead of Saracens clash

16 December 2017; Leinster players, from left, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy and James Ryan after the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 4 match between Leinster and Exeter Chiefs at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
16 December 2017; Leinster players, from left, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy and James Ryan after the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 4 match between Leinster and Exeter Chiefs at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Max Ryan

Luke Fitzgerald believes Leinster’s season hinges on this Sunday’s Champions Cup quarter-final tie with Saracens at the Aviva Stadium.

Speaking on this week’s episode of The Left Wing in association with Laya Healthcare, the former Ireland international said that members of the Grand Slam-winning side might have benefited from another week of build-up ahead of such a pivotal game.

"If we had another week Sean O’Brien would definitely be playing and Rhys Ruddock would definitely be in the mix as well," he said.

"International rugby is fairly brutal at the moment and I think another week would have been a better idea.

The former Leinster winger also tipped Nick McCarthy to claim the sub scrum-half spot ahead of Jamison Gibson-Park, which would facilitate James Lowe and Scott Fardy in the team, since Leo Cullen can only select two of his three antipodean players.

"With the back three issues, it will be Nick probably at nine who is actually a lovely player," he said.

"He hasn’t got much of a chance because Jamison Gibson-Park has been excellent for Leinster.

"Luke McGrath is playing really good rugby this year when he’s been fit, he’s a great tackler as well and he’s a big part of team.

"When his kicking is good he’s actually quite close to (Conor) Murray, that’s how much I rate him."

Another selection headache facing head coach Leo Cullen, according to Fitzgerald, is whether to select in-form lock Devin Toner or go with the pairing of James Ryan and Scott Fardy.

"I think it probably will be that (Ryan and Fardy) but it seems unbelievably harsh on Dev," he said.

"He’s a great link man around the pitch, he’s got lovely soft hands."

Fitzgerald believes that the technical qualities of the home side’s pack will prove decisive despite Saracens’ strength in that department.

"It’s the toughest place to compete with Saracens when (George) Kruis and (Maro) Itoje are fit and I think Leinster are the best suited in the competition to compete with them there."

Subscribe to The Left Wing, Independent.ie's Rugby podcast in association with Laya Healthcare, with Luke Fitzgerald and Will Slattery for the best discussion and analysis each week. From in depth interviews with some of Irish rugby's biggest stars to unmatched insights into the provinces and the national team, The Left Wing has all your rugby needs covered.

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