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Friday 9 December 2016

Luke McGrath: Leinster have to do the simple things right

Leinster scrum-half aims to make up for last week

Luke McGrath
Luke McGrath
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen watches squad training at Belfield this week

Leinster have been slow starters for six of the last seven seasons.

They have begun each campaign away from home and followed it with home court advantage. This is where the turn of the table takes place.

They have won their second League match in five of the last six seasons.

This was always going to be the one they needed more to reboot the regeneration of a club down on season ticket sales.

For sure, coach Leo Cullen will have drilled down on the basics, the essential standards that must be met, to add to the losing bonus-point (15-9) taken away from Edinburgh last Friday night.

"There was a big learning curve there," said scrum-half Luke McGrath, the former Ireland U20 captain.

"You want to win every game you play. But, it was the first game.

"It was a disappointment. People were frustrated on the plane home.

"That game is done with now. We have to move on. That's what everyone's done."

It is the remit of the coach to deal in specifics and that of his players to make good on his observations.

"When we did have the ball, we just didn't hold onto it which just wasn't good enough for our standards.

"The breakdown let us down and our discipline as well.

"We gave them kickable opportunities which were unnecessary really because our defence stood up quite well in phases."

Every professional rugby club is lined with the next generation of young men, who feel, rightly or wrongly, they have not been given the chance to show what they can do.

That rule simply doesn't apply right now.

Leinster have reached back into the All-Ireland League to fish out props Royce Burke-Flynn and Ian Hirst, two men eager to show how they are good enough to replicate Darragh Fanning.

Jamie Hagan has bounced around from club to club on this his third stint at the province.

There are a plethora of players for which this is a first, second and last chance to make a long-term career out of a hard knocks profession.

It continues in earnest with a real step into the unknown against a giant club stuck with the untouchable tag of perennial under-achievers.

Sound familiar? The day could come when Cardiff move out of their own way to make a real fist of challenging for the PRO12 League.

Those Blues were able to hand Zebre an eleven-try lesson in making and taking chances.

Leinster can undo a lot of what will come at them by simply minimising the mistakes.

"The main thing we did last week is give up cheap ball," noted McGrath.

"If we do that against Cardiff, they have players, like (Rhys) Patchell, and pace out wide, like (Dan) Fish, who can hurt you from anywhere.

"It is just important to keep hold of the ball, not give them counter-attack ball of our unforced errors.

"Defensively, I thought we did pretty well at stages last week. It is important to keep that up this week."

Time is a precious commodity when everything is happening so quickly.

There has to be a unity of purpose from Leinster tomorrow in how they look to unlock a Cardiff defence that did not have to fend off anything like the intensity expected from Zebre on day one.

"It is important to go through the game and learn from your mistakes," added McGrath.

"There's no point in being annoyed at each other. We're a young team, at the moment, and we have to stick together."

This is the stage on which those who dare to dream have also to play.

This is a wide open window of opportunity for the likes of McGrath to move up the pecking order at a province where the men above him Reddan and Boss are 34 and 35, respectively.

Above the personal competition is the responsibility to the club to not leave a mountain to climb for Ireland's World Cup men when they eventually return to the domestic scene.

"We want to give them as many wins as possible. Simple as that really," voiced McGrath.

"We just have to grip this with both hands, come together as one and, hopefully, get a good win at the weekend."

It is the simplicity of team sport. When one wins, most win.

Leinster v Cardiff, The RDS, Tomorrow (KO 5.15) live Sky Sports 4

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