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Monday 23 October 2017

O'Connor: Scary Te'o to spook the Scots

The Kiwi big hitter can be Blues' version of England terror Tuilagi

Kevin McLaughlin
Kevin McLaughlin

It's that time of the year when Halloween's fright night takes hold at The RDS.

Matt O'Connor has handed a Leinster debut to Ben Te'o with one clear message "to scare the life out of the opposition in defence."

The New Zealander brings a physical presence not unlike that of O'Connor's former star-pupil Manu Tuilagi at Leicester Tigers.

"He's a similar type of athlete," he agreed.

"Manu has never played Rugby League. He grew up with four older brothers who were elite rugby players, so it's a little bit different in that regard.

"But what he brings to the team, what he brings to the game is those similar physical characteristics to get you over the gain line and that's what we're looking to get out of him early doors".

At least, that will do for now.

There are details that have to be ironed out, the rules, the ruck, the subtleties of the game, where and when to be, where and when to bring his special gifts for hitting.

"He's a little bit down on the nuances of the game but he's an incredibly fast learner and the more he plays, the better he'll be," offered O'Connor.

"He's a very powerful defender. He carries the ball incredibly well and we'll be looking to get him involved in those aspects of the game as often as we can."

It was apparent how Leinster did not have the muscle to win the battle of the gain line in Castres. They had to work around it, rely on their discipline and the goal-kicking of Ian Madigan.

That won't be enough every time. This is where Te'o comes in as a man who has made a career out of breaking the gain line.

"We need to make sure we have a game that plays to his strengths in the short term and backs his instincts.

"And from there, relative to what he can deliver in the games he plays, we can grow things around that. Athletically, and in terms of how quick a learner he is, there is endless scope for him.

"The game revolves around momentum and going forward so that is going to be important in the short-term and where it goes we'll see."

From there, the trail runners can come into the game.

"You look at Zane Kirchner, Darragh Fanning and Luke Fitzgerald. All of a sudden, it's gone from little to big with not much changing, so it's important for us."

What Leinster have missed most this season is that clout from Sean O'Brien and Cian Healy to get in behind the first line of defence and then flow into attack.

"We struggled to get gain line success against Castres. They defended very well. They made us work hard at the breakdown.

"The speedy release and go-forward wasn't what we would have liked. It made it difficult. We managed the game well, played in the right areas and our discipline was fantastic. And that always gives you a chance."

Edinburgh brings a frightening prospect of their own. It is not the physicality, but the finishing of 6'4," 17 stones wing Scotland international Tim Visser that can unravel any defence.

"He's a very, very good player and probably their most dangerous attacking threat," agreed O'Connor.

"They are pretty direct but whenever they get a chance to give the ball to Visser, they take it.

"He's scored some unbelievable tries over the last two or three seasons, including some very good ones against us.

"We're going to have to make sure that we deal with him and make sure we limit the opportunities when he gets the ball, or else solve them when he does.

"He certainly knows how to put the ball over the line.

"He knows how to attack. He's quick, he knows how to beat defenders and score tries. We'll have to be accurate."

The flying Dutchman - he was born in Zeewolde, raised in the Netherlands - is not quite the complete package.

"He has been vulnerable in the past defensively, with the ball in behind him and all those things.

"There are a lot of wingers who are susceptible to those factors. It's about us being accurate in what we do.

"If we can expose some of those weaknesses in their back three, then we'lltry."

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