Wednesday 13 November 2019

Blues to target Breaking ball

Henshaw pushes the plan to apply pressure to Farrell

Robbie Henshaw at Leinster squad training in UCD
Robbie Henshaw at Leinster squad training in UCD

It is all about the breaking ball. When Munster could not claim the bombs Saracens sent their way in the Champions Cup semi-final, it did not bode well; or turn out well.

The contested kicks launched by half-backs Ben Sp encer and Owen Farrell were chased and tapped back by their back-three scavengers Alex Goode, David Strettle and Liam Williams.

The tactic employed by Sarries was to tap back the ball rather than attempt to catch it.

Rob Kearney has already spoken of how it is far easier to slap the ball back with one hand than claim it with two. Mike Haley would agree.

It is to the advantage of the kick-chasing men as they are running onto the ball rather than the receiving team, which has to turn and retrieve it.

The message to the self-proclaimed 'Wolfpack' is to gorge on the scraps on the floor.

Leinster will have to prevent the ball from breaking badly for them by clogging up that space just ahead of their fielder.

This is where the glue-like hands of Devin Toner and Sean O'Brien and Tadhg Furlong can defuse those 'hop of the ball' situations.

"I haven't actually mentioned it but I might during the week, the breaking ball," smiled Westmeath's ex-county minor Robbie Henshaw.

"I think the scraps are going to be huge, so I suppose beating them to the ball on the floor and those individual battles are going to be key.

"Getting the edge on your opposite number in the game is going to be huge," he continued.

"If that does happen in the game, whatever team can win those loose balls on the floor will thrive off it."

The variety and accuracy of Farrell's kicking game caused untold trouble for Ireland in February.

It tests the thinking and positional sense of the back three players by pulling them here and there and sending chasers to grapple for the ball.

"We've certainly had a lot of time to look at him, so we'll do our best to go after him," said Henshaw.

"I know he's an incredibly skilled player. He has a variety of plays in his playbook that he can pull out of the bag."

It won't be all about defending what Farrell does. There will be a commitment to take away the out-half's time and space, to force the kick quicker than he would want.

"I think it's about what we can do to hopefully put as much pressure on him as we can," said Henshaw.

"Certainly, we'll have to be squeaky clean in terms of our discipline and not give them many shots at goal."

There is the danger posed by Farrell and then there is a secondary threat from full-back.

"I suppose Alex Goode is another man who is incredible dangerous and has probably been one of the best in their backline.

"He's probably a guy who is not mentioned as much, but has contributed a lot to this season."

The challenge is to keep Farrell and Goode in check. It will take some doing.

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