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Friday 9 December 2016

O'Connor: We owe the fans

Leinster boss sums up torturous season as he aims to make sure of qualification for Champions Cup

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor

You couldn't blame Matt O'Connor for letting a not-this-again glaze come across his eyes about the issue of Player Welfare yesterday when the more immediate issue of qualification for The Champions Cup is still a live subject.

It could happen - Leinster could fail to qualify for a competition they almost called their own between 2009 and 2012.

As O'Connor looks to put manners on Treviso tonight, his review of a torturous season is already in.

"The three things are probably under-performance, meritocracy and injuries," he offered.

"The injury profile that we've had this year, the increase in the stakes relative to meritocracy and then we've been below-par at stages, which has cost us points.

GOOD ENOUGH

"That's from Glasgow game one, a couple of games against Munster, a couple of games against Dragons. There's periods along the way where we haven't been good enough.

"Then you stick on top of that an increase in the intensity of the League and a significantly higher injury profile than we've had in the last two seasons anyway.

"It changes the dynamics," he said.

The secret to success is no secret at all. It all stems from setting standards and following through on them, not every week, every day.

"There's no magic formula," said the Australian.

"The lads prepare and train and play as hard as they can every week. To suggest there are different levels of motivation at different stages of the season is a little false.

"The guys work really hard every week. The coaches work really hard every week to prepare a group of blokes to put out a performance. That is the reality of it."

There have been genuine reasons why Leinster have not been able to shake free of a mental and physical strait-jacket.

"Sometimes it's as good as you want it to be. Other times it is a little indifferent and other times it's not good enough.

"That's what we've done this week. We've narrowed the focus. We know the stakes.

"We want to be really good tomorrow night and we think we owe it to the fans and we owe it to the lads that are moving on," he said.

O'Connor will not look back on this season with fond memories.

It has been a chastening experience.

Even so, Leinster came within a whisker of whipping Toulon's throne right out from under them.

"If you break it down into the two competitions we're in, there were some huge positives in Europe. We demonstrated that we can certainly compete with the best in Europe which people had doubted.

DISAPPOINTING

"If you look at the PRO12, (it has been) incredibly disappointing. We'll look at that post-season and make sure that we put the things in place that we can fix very quickly for next season."

It isn't all doom and gloom.

"The positive bit is that we've got a very good group of coaches and players. All the tools are there to fix it."

It won't get any easier next season when Leinster budget for 20 men playing at the World Cup. Before that, O'Connor needs to close out this season with two wins.

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