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Saturday 10 December 2016

Fitz: We're not out of it yet

Henshaw's youth and aggression would be a welcome addition to province says Luke

Luke Fitzgerald in action during Leinster squad training
Luke Fitzgerald in action during Leinster squad training
Fitzgerald being tackled by Robbie Henshaw during the Guinness PRO12 match against Connacht at the RDS

As for Leinster, so Toulon. Where the Irish province was horribly disjointed against Wasps, the reigning champions followed suit on Sunday against the same English club.

The outcome is that the pre-competition Pool Five outsiders Wasps (9 pts) lead the way from Bath (4) with Leinster third (1) and Toulon (0) trailing behind in fourth.

Who would have forecast that? Of course, Bath and Toulon have to play their second fixture at a date to be confirmed.

"You probably saw that Toulon struggled a bit as well on the weekend against Wasps because they have an awful lot of guys coming back from (World Cup) duty - the same as ourselves," said Luke Fitzgerald.

"It does make it a little bit tricky to getting used to different systems, playing with different guys again.

"All those little things make a difference."

"They are a couple of things that the squad is thinking about and that will get better, coming into those two games (against Toulon).

"It's important for us not to lose heart and to give it our all in those two games and see where we lie after that."

The Irish international was not willing to concede on qualification for the quarter-finals.

"It's very important that we don't lose confidence," he said.

"We have some difficult games coming up in terms of the (Champions) Cup.

"I think it is very important that, as long as there is still an opportunity, we give it our all.

"I think we will. This group is going to grow and get better."

Where there is perceived failure, there is the distraction of other issues.

What can be done to make it better? Who can Leinster sign to make it better? What about Robbie Henshaw?

"I don't know whether the club are pitching to him or not, but it sounds like they are," he said.

"Age is a big thing, he's a young guy.

"Physically, he has great attributes. He's a big guy, tough, up for the fight which is a big thing with young guys because it does take a lot of time to get used to the big collisions, especially at 12."

The man from the Westmeath side of Athlone has already shown character in adversity.

"He really toughed it out against Argentina which is a good sign of a player," he said.

"He took some bad knocks and big tackles but he took it really well and stayed on the pitch when things weren't going well for us.

"I can see lots of reasons why any club would like to have Robbie in their ranks."

Fitzgerald was wearing the same jersey for Leinster that Henshaw was for Ireland at the World Cup.

"I'm probably not the guy to be asking," he smiled. "I think what we've got going on here with the systems we have in place the guys who are coaching us, it's an excellent set-up to be successful and to further themselves as a rugby player."

The always self-critical Fitzgerald has matured into a really interesting man to sit and listen too.

Conscious

He took the compliment of having made the second most tackles (9) of any Leinster player, next to to Rhys Ruddock (12), and turned it on its head.

"I'm really conscious that a closed mouth catches no flies," he said.

"But I was disappointed in that myself. I think it's a strong part of my game.

"Defensive IQ and commitment, I think it's a real strong point of my game.

"I'm disappointed that I missed a few poor ones at the weekend that could of helped us out at different times."

Long held-up as a natural left-wing by the coaches who have worked with him, Fitzgerald is in some danger of being moved from 'Billy-to-Jack' for his versatility to excel there or in the two centre positions.

"I actually really like it at 12, I've always liked it in there, it suits a lot of the attributes that I have," he stated.

"Hopefully, I get more time there. That's what I'm hoping for, to be in one position.

"I've said it before, you become a jack of all trades and a master of none.

"I think the left wing is a place that I'm very comfortable.

"But, I think 12 is a place that suits our personnel at the moment and a place that I like, so if I could stick there that would be great."

For a man who has had such an unstable time through injury, it is not much to ask for - stability in selection.

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