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Thursday 14 December 2017

Blues must build where others choose to buy

Leinster's sustainable model goes head to head with 'moneybags' Monptellier

Rory O’Loughlin runs in to score his and Leinster’s second try during the Guinness PRO14 match against Munster at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Rory O’Loughlin runs in to score his and Leinster’s second try during the Guinness PRO14 match against Munster at the Aviva Stadium. Photo: SPORTSFILE

The Champions Cup is straight ahead and Leinster will look to make new memories to match those of 2009, 2011 and 2012.

It seems like a long time ago when the legacy of the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Gordon D'Arcy and Shane Horgan was sealed by three European Cups in four years.

We never thought we would see their like again.

In one way, we have. In another, not so much.

For, moneybags Mourad Boudjellal's Toulon swiftly moved the goalposts in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

He didn't do it through building something special.

He made it happen by buying in special players, steeped in winning.

The template for spending more than you have continued to work for Saracens in 2015 and 2016.

"You look back at the way the game has gone," said Leinster coach Leo Cullen.

"You think, 'jeepers, in 2012, we won the European Cup against Ulster in the final' and you think of the teams that we played against en route there.

Faltered

Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton and Luke McGrath (left) after the game. Photo: SPORTSFILE
Leinster’s Jonathan Sexton and Luke McGrath (left) after the game. Photo: SPORTSFILE

"Then Toulon comes along and the model that they have from winning the (French) second division and the players they had even then - Victor Matfield, George Gregan.

"Then they have the Jonny Wilkinsons and the list goes on and on."

As one monster faltered and faded slightly, another one rose in its' place.

Last year, Saracens' club chairman Nigel Wray explained their rationale behind accruing £45.1 million worth of debt over a number of loss- making seasons.

It was all distilled into one uneconomic argument along the lines of 'if you want to win trophies, you have to spend money, a lot of money.'

"Saracens even, and you see their accumulated losses - five million, five million, six million, five million, four million," stated Cullen.

"This is when they are at the top of the European game.

"The model is different. How do you compete with that? We don't compete the same.

"We have our way of doing things and that's a sustainable model that we have," he asserted.

"We can't control what other teams do because we can't accumulate 50 million quid of losses.

Humour

"That's not the way it works."

This is where Cullen's dry sense of humour surfaced, momentarily.

"I think Saracens have this thing called making memories.

"But it's 'making memories' and racking up a huge debt at the same time."

Doubtless, Saracens are the standard set for this season.

In fairness to the English club, there is a core of outstanding England internationals running through the club.

The same could not be said of Toulon or of Montpellier, the next financial beast to be put in front of Leinster.

The latter have employed Vern Cotter to do what Bernard Laporte did with Toulon.

There has to be a genuine respected figurehead at the head of the beast to make it work, just as Saracens have done with the under-stated Mark McCall.

"That's the teams we're up against," issued Cullen.

"Montpellier are the new team on the block.

"If you think back to the Leicesters, the Northamptons, and Toulouse. They are where they are in the game.

"We want to be challenging at the top. We've a great opportunity this year to start off again."

Leinster's transition from champions to contenders and back again has been painful, the 2017 semi-final defeat to old foes Clermont-Auvergne taken with hard luck stories of a disallowed try and missed chances.

"We got to a semi-final last year, almost getting there (the final)," he said.

Better

"We weren't good enough last year. We need to be better this year.

"That's all that we will be focussing on, is getting better, getting better, getting better."

"Montpellier, I am sure, have been focussing on the same thing because they went out and spent a lot of money during the summer to try and get better."

And they have.

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