Tuesday 20 March 2018

Victor Costello: Leinster have to make the most of time when focus is firmly on Ireland

Ben Te’o is one to watch and needs to continue his form from last season
Ben Te’o is one to watch and needs to continue his form from last season

Last season, there were certain players within the Leinster set-up who performed well enough that they would have hoped or indeed expected to be included in the World Cup squad.

While Leinster were decimated by injury and depleted due to international commitments, their performances were testament to their hunger for the jersey. Players like Darragh Fanning, Dominic Ryan, Luke McGrath and Jack Conan particularly impressed.

Naturally, some squad members will be disappointed. However, after an initial mourning period, there is no better platform to prove your worth than playing for Leinster.

For them, the World Cup will come and go and yes it is sometimes hard to watch your mates playing on the world stage in the green jersey, but as the amateur ethos suggested years ago, you are actually never as far off the Irish squad as you think.

Maintaining personal pride in their performances for Leinster will keep a platform for all of the squad to benefit from.

Edinburgh away is no better place to dust off the cobwebs of the new season and put disappointment behind. Throughout the years, Edinburgh have persisted in playing their Pro12 games in Murrayfield.


While it is always a great occasion to play in a stadium with such tradition, the flip side is that it's normally empty. Edinburgh have never enticed the crowds they expected over the years and playing there, the home and away crowds echo like an empty indoor swimming pool. It will be interesting to see how they fare in Meggetland tonight.

The Scots' credo is to use the width of the pitch by always dragging opposition teams to the left and right. This stretches the defence and puts pressure on the opposition back-row to secure possession. The trick against Edinburgh is to keep the ball tight by winning the set-pieces and dictating the pace of the game.

Winning on the road is always important in competitions and if the Leinster management can get off to a winning start, they can head into the season banishing some bad memories from on the road last season.

While Leinster can feel somewhat understrength starting off this season, they do so only by their own high standards. Ben Te'o is one to watch and needs to continue his form from last season.

Isa Nacewa, the crowd favourite, needs to keep the punters in their seats and singing. Gordon D'Arcy, in his seventeenth season, is as important as he was at the start of the 1998 season.

Add in Mike McCarthy and the new captain Kevin McLaughlin and Leinster will not be lacking in experience.

Leo Cullen and his coaching staff will handle the usual player tug-of-war with the Irish management and in doing so will have better availability to players. Likewise the Irish players need to be loyal to their province when available.

While the Irish players head off to play England in the final warm-up game, Leinster will be up the road, under the radar.

While the focus is off the men in blue, the slate is clean and the pressure is off - for these few weeks only.

Irish Independent

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