Things have been quiet in TCP Towers here in Bray, County Wicklow and the reason for that is because of the thing we love the most. I am not talking about Nutella, Guinness and or Pink Salt Indian takeaway (well worth a try if you are in the borough or its surrounding environs). It is because of our beloved Leinster. Our beloved champions of Europe and champions of our hearts. Even our Munster friends would agree, that Leinster is Irelands team (is that burning I smell).
So why is Leinster causing such sadness in the garden of Ireland?
Well it is a game of 2 halves really. Coming up to the semi-final against Toulouse, Leinster are bereft of momentum. Not playing badly or anything just nothing happening. The 6 Nations took a lot out of the team. When you are the main provider of players and they come back without a pep in their step then it may take time for them to hit the ground running. Munster would have had the same issue in the dark days when they provided the bulk of the green jerseys.
So what happens now? In the intervening time since the 6N, a lot of players have had game time which is good for the future, but not so good for the right now. The balancing act that Cullen and Lancaster have to play is not enviable. Mix that with the exodus of players (for whatever reason) and the players currently on the injury list, I would suggest that if Lancaster didn’t have the same hairline as myself, he would have one fairly soon.
So this is the weekend that Leinster has to turn things around. Ahead of Toulouse visiting the capital, Leinster need to show they are ready to step up. The return of Toner and Henshaw is massive to this. The teams where named mere seconds ago and the Leinster team looks very strong. Larmour on the wing, and a big start for the backup front row of Ed Byrne (an absolute animal), Tracy (very solid) and Bent (still underrated) will start with Cronin, Healy and Furlong waiting to be unleashed if needed .No Porter but maybe a break will do him good with the semi-final ahead. Jack Dunne sits in beside the returning Toner as a 20 year old with 43 minutes of game time this season. Important that he steps up and fires as expected. Massive talent, just needs to get the shot at proving it on the pitch.
To paraphrase a rapping icon, ‘mo options, mo problems’
Sean O’Brien captains the side which is a vote of confidence for him. With the injuries to back rows recently, he now has a shot at regaining form with regular play. That is what he needs. The more time his boots are on grass, the better he will get. Captaincy will rest well on the tullow tank.
Lastly, Joe Tomane is coming good. Which is a testament to his mental strength given the amount of abuse he is getting on line from fans (not supporters). A very strong performance last weekend in the draw against Benetton. 5 runs for 34 metres and 14 tackles with only 1 missed along with running a tasty dummy line for one of the tries shows that he is finding his feet in the Leinster way. We have short memories because it took the great James Lowe a bit of time to settle in. Tomane will be fine.
So it is the Glasgow Warriors who arrived this Saturday at 3pm to take on Leinster. A very strong side and they have won 3 of the last 5 games. Their 2 losses have been by 1 point and 6 points respectively. Not a bad stat for the visitors. None of their wins have been in the RDS so maybe there is a mental issue there. I know it can be a cauldron but they have put points on Leinster on their own patch, no excuse for not being able to do it away if they are mentally strong. It is the same game home or away. Both teams come in with only 1 loss in 5.
Glasgow comes in after hammering Ulster 30-7. They ran for fewer metres and gave away 13 penalties. The set piece was 100% and they made over 90% of tackles. But if Leinster show up with the Leinster-jitzu and begin strangling them, their penalty count will cost them
Leinster comes in off a draw with Benetton, having half the possession and territory of the Italians, making only 88% of 306 tackles but only leaked 5 penalties. Leinster where allowing Benetton to truck into them all day knowing that the defence would stand firm. While I understand the reasoning for this tactic, I don’t enjoy it. If you are in any kind of conflict, allowing someone to throw the first blow is never a good idea, no matter how good the defence is. So Leinster must start strong and must start on the front foot. Really put the marker down early. Leinster played Connacht in the grand final years ago by allowing them run on all day. Leinster cannot do that anymore. Always Go Forward! If they do that then they will strangle Glasgow and get the mojo back.
A massive 2 weeks ahead, I am currently salivating at the prospect!