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Saturday 23 September 2017

Leinster primed to hit ground running

Dragons v Leinster Live tomorrow 3.15, TG4 & Sky Sports Action

Bernard Jackman is happy with what he sees during training with the Dragons
Bernard Jackman is happy with what he sees during training with the Dragons

Bernard Jackman has been described as the coach who took 'the road less travelled' when it came to starting out on his professional coaching career.

He took flight to Grenoble in 2011 as their forwards coach and was a central part of their progress from Pro D2 to the French Top-14 ranks when others bided their time at home.

There is a strong argument to be made that 'the other man from Tullow' emigrated because he had to, as there were no doors open to him in Ireland.

This is the difference between Jackman and Ronan O'Gara, who left out of choice to make his way at Racing in Paris.

Although it didn't quite work out for him when he took the top job in Grenoble, there were glimpses of what was possible.

System

The former Leinster hooker was able to instil Grenoble with his 'New Zealand system', in which width and the basic skills of catch-pass are critical.

However, Jackman blamed a clash of cultures on the relegation of the club at the foot of the Alps

"For me, having a game plan and being able to vary your game plan around opposition's strengths, weaknesses is really important," he said.

"But it was obvious that it wasn't part of their mindset.

"The big thing I took from Grenoble was to align yourself with people with the same ambition."

He made it a cornerstone of his contract to take Wales' after-thought club from nowhere to somewhere in the seasons ahead.

"I've been given the freedom in the Dragons to put my own staff together," he continued.

"I think that's really important for a head coach. The successful head coaches - they've got the track record and can do this - Eddie Jones, Jake White, Joe Schmidt, they generally bring people in that they've worked with before and they've confidence in.

"Everyone's on the same page," he said.

He has taken his principles of the game to the Dragons, where they will have their first test against Leinster.

The focus will be on meeting attack with attack at Rodney Parade.

"Glasgow, Scarlets, Connacht, for me, had the best attack over the last three seasons and they got rewarded for that," said Jackman.

"In other competitions, that's not necessarily the case.

"In the Pro14, I think there is much more emphasis on giving players the freedom to play because there's no relegation."

The shift in style for the Dragons should take the length of a season.

While the Welsh are busy making the transition, Leinster can make a solid start to the PRO14.

Afterall, Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster are that much further down the road to getting what they want from their men.

It would be naïve to take anything too meaningful from Leinster's three pre-season matches.

Slice

That said, they were able to slice and dice Premiership clubs Gloucester and Bath.

There should be a first glimpse of Leinster's new signing Scott Fardy, an ideal man for their high-tempo drills.

No8 Max Deegan and wing Jordan Larmour are two men in a hurry to show what they can do before Ireland's 'big dogs' bite into the League.

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