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Monday 5 December 2016

Reddan: we're on the way

Blues one point behind leaders Scarlets with one game in hand

Eoin Reddan runs into the Connacht defence during the Guinness PRO12 match at the RDS. Pics: Sportsfile
Eoin Reddan runs into the Connacht defence during the Guinness PRO12 match at the RDS. Pics: Sportsfile

Eoin Reddan is long enough in the game to ride out the riddle between searching for form and showing it.

The experienced scrum-half is beginning to find his hands and feet later than Leinster coach Leo Cullen would have wanted, but just in time for Joe Schmidt ahead of the Six Nations.

"Within the group, we've been fairly honest with each other," he said, about Leinster's December-into-January.

"The coaches are on us each week with what's been good, bad and what we can improve on.

"There have definitely been improvements every week with all the little parts of our game.

"People outside of the group are probably starting to see that now with a few good results," he added, after the 13-nil home win over Connacht.

"Even with the four bad results in Europe we knew we were getting better and, hopefully, start to produce the results to match those performances."

The evidence is there in black and white.

For all of the despair at Leinster's record-breaking speed of exit from Europe, there has come the undeniable positivity that Cullen has crept up the PRO12 League to sit in second.

Learned

"In the two weeks against Toulon, we learned a lot about ourselves too," said Reddan.

"We learned how important discipline was beca use it really, really cost us.

"That helped us, particularly, last week (against Munster) when we made a crazy amount of tackles and gave away very few penalties and, as a group, we are starting to see the benefit of not giving those penalties away."

Leinster are one behind The Scarlets in the PRO12 with a game-in-hand over the leaders and all clubs from third to seventh.

"There's a sense in the group that we're going in the right direction," he stated.

"If you've played badly and you come in, you want to be told what you did wrong and you want to be shown how you can be better. The coaches are very good at that.

"People have been down in the dumps, but that has been addressed and it hasn't hung over us,"

So, Leinster have been able to absorb the agony and lessons from Europe and apply them to progress in the League, admittedly against inferior opposition.

The word transition is tossed around like it has a finite period of one season or as a kind way of explaining how those players good enough to take a club forward are not there.

Then, there are the coaching changes that mean a new man enters with new ideas.

First-time coach Leo Cullen, first-time backs coach Girvan Dempsey, first-time scrum coach John Fogarty and the recalled defence coach Kurt McQuilkin are about as inexperienced a group teamed together in Europe.

Heck, Joe Schmidt spoke about how he was learning on the job when he came to Leinster as a first-time head coach even though he had a long and thorough apprenticeship at Bay of Plenty (2003 & 2004), Auckland Blues (2004-007) and Clermont-Auvergne (2007-2010).

In the long term, once the financial flavour has been absorbed, the fact Cullen has to concentrate on warring on one front could be the best thing to happen to him.

Connacht could stall from here now that they have been reeled in.

However, the presence of the Six Nations window will give them renewed heart to go with their improved skills and unbreakable spirit.

They can still mount a serious bid for Champions Cup rugby next season and for the Challenge Cup this year.

"All in all, we've got to remember who we're playing, where we're playing and that they have a stacked team of internationals," said their coach Pat Lam.

"You always have the first part of the season, the middle and then the back part.

"The middle is always the toughest and always toughest for the teams with the smaller squads.

"Last week, Leinster had a pretty impressive team. They made eleven changes and they still had eleven internationals.

"It's not about looking at the table now. It's later on. Every game is about the points."

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