herald

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Blues firing on all cylinders as young players' influence grows

A comprehensive victory in the end, Leinster have deservedly come out of a difficult group with an exceptional brace of tries and home quarter-final to boot.

The benefits of a great squad rotation policy and in particular a very astute change of tactics instigated by the coach at half-time in this encounter, paved the way for a win that was still somewhat in the balance midway through a game that provided much entertainment despite what was at stake for the away side.

Leinster began nervously but soon found their stride with some trademark tries. Racing played with nothing to lose, which is always a hard thing to come up against especially when the natural instincts of the Leinster players was to match them play for play. Leinster were successful in implementing their game but with the game fast and loose were prone to errors, especially in defence which meant that the scoreline remained far too close for comfort.

Leinster knew that when they upped the tempo they had the home side at their mercy but Racing still packed a punch in attack. It was the kind of game where Leinster could have scored enough tries to earn a bonus point but yet could still have come out the wrong side of the result.

Ahead by 21-11 with the game hopping back and forth, I'm sure the valid points that were made at half-time could not have come at a better time.

Leinster controlled their phase play a lot better in the second period which made the home side defend for longer periods. The Blues picked off their scores with a much more patient and direct approach, running good lines, retaining the ball, which in the end took the stomach for the fight away from the home side.

The introduction of star players like Lionel Nallet and a few other heavyweights proved too little too late for a side who threatened much at the outset of the competition.

Whilst the Leinster players will not pay any attention to the pundits, it is clear that this side is firing on all cylinders and are seemingly unfazed by the fact that they are one of the favourites to win the Heineken Cup once again.

The attitude that some of the younger players bring to the game is great to see. In that sense there is now great hope for the future within Leinster.

This style or ethos of play is rightly being honed at underage level. Watching players emulating their heroes cannot be underestimated and the opportunity throughout schools and clubs is now there to cement this brand of football as we head in to the future. To be fair Leinster have always attached themselves with similar philosophies but the extent of such an approach always wavered with each coach in recent years.

The difficult and yet delicate blend of adopting a successful yet entertaining brand of football must now be grasped with both hands. The 600 supporters who travelled to Paris speaks volumes about the direction that rugby is been taken within the province and long may it continue.

Attention now switches to the Six Nations. I do not envy Declan Kidney in his task but he will need all his skills to bring vastly different playing cultures together which at this moment in time seem to be all the more contrasting despite the fact that this Irish squad in the main has played together for a long time.

Whilst the players in each province will all come in to camp in a different place mentally, both players and coaches alike know they will need to buy in selflessly to a new competition and new challenges in the coming months.

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