Sunday 23 October 2016

Jimmy Gopperth: I'll be putting my body on the line for Leinster

Departing Leinster out-half to put body on line in France

Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Offices, UCD, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster's Jimmy Gopperth during a press conference at Leinster Rugby Offices, UCD, Dublin. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Jimmy Gopperth has been around the block and back.

He will depart Leinster next month for life back in the Premiership with Wasps at the end of a two-year period that will be mostly defined by what will happen in Marseille on Sunday.

That's right! It all comes down to one game.

It is his chance to show everyone he has been the right choice all along at fly-half, ahead of Ian Madigan, to confirm Matt O'Connor's impressions and repay the unwavering faith placed in him by his coach.

"It means a lot, you know? This is why I came to Leinster, to have the opportunity to win big trophies," said Gopperth.

"If I get the opportunity this week then I'll be putting my body on the line and giving everything I've got. Everyone wants to play in that final on May 2 in Twickenham.

"It will mean a lot for me personally."

If Leinster can do what few expect, they will derail a juggernaut that has been crashing through all the barriers of European rugby over the last two seasons.

"They are probably the best team in the world at the moment," said Gopperth.

When reminded this view of the global game takes in Super Rugby, the proud New Zealander rowed back slightly on his one-line assessment of Toulon.

"It's probably the most talked-about team in the world," he explained further.

"They have some class internationals and they could put out a second fifteen and still fill it with international players.

"The calibre is there. The experience is there. And they seem to be enjoying it.

"They are down in the south of France, loving life and their rugby. When you are enjoying your rugby, with the talent they have, then you have a formidable force."

In contrast, Leinster are at their lowest ebb for some time. They are most unlikely to hit their target of a semi-final in the PRO12 and are even more unlikely to make their fourth European Cup final.

A main reason has been the fall off in defence. There has been an alarming increase in missed tackles and miscommunication. That has to be rectified.

Where does it all start? "You've got to make your first-up shots, first-up tackles because they are big, big men," said Gopperth.

"They are going to run at you and if you don't make your first-up shots they are going to get in behind you and get momentum.

"The likes of (Matt) Giteau, (Drew) Mitchell, (Mathieu) Bastareaud will just keep coming at you, so defence is going to be a massive key for us."

So many times coaches will talk about defence as a mindset. The technique has been coached in. The players have to impart total commitment. Every time.

Taking care of business in defence is one half of the job. Taking care of the ball is the other.

"Yeah, we have got to play what we see and play the opportunity," added Gopperth.

"We know that they do leak a few tries, we know there's opportunities there and we know we've got to take them."

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