Monday 20 November 2017

Triumphant road trip a sign of things to come out west

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

The Pro12 kicked off last weekend with the biggest attendance (something in excess of 7,000) at Musgrave Park for the defending champions' opening outing.

It was, on balance, a good start for the Irish teams, with Munster and Ulster solid in eking out first-day wins over the Dragons and Glasgow respectively.

However, pride of place must go to Connacht for a rare win on the road -- one that could hardly have been better timed given an indifferent start (three defeats from three) in their warm-up campaign.

With the massive season that's in it, Saturday's win in Treviso will have provided Eric Elwood's newly assembled squad with a big, and timely, confidence boost.

Add to that Gavin Duffy, Johnny Muldoon and Mike McCarthy having missed the World Cup cut and they will be the squad best equipped to take advantage in the Pro12 of sides weakened by World Cup call-ups.

I dare not tempt fate, but I like the look of what's stirring at the Sportsground.

At the other end of the spectrum was Leinster's abysmal performance at the Liberty Stadium, where, almost to a man, they were awful.

In what could be best described as ragged and disjointed, only David Kearney, Jamie Hagan and Isa Nacewa came remotely close to the expected level, and even that is clutching at straws.

This is the time when opportunity knocks for young guns to make their mark, and on Friday's depressing evidence, few -- if any -- did.

Just one game in, but already they owe head coach Joe Schmidt a much more acceptable level of performance at home to the Dragons on Friday.

Irish Independent

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