Wednesday 24 January 2018

Kane Douglas might be able to give Cheika a dig-out

Caputo: 'We've got to be better'

9 October 2014; Jack McGrath, Leinster, is tackled by Guy Thompson, left, and Andy Goode, Wasps. European Rugby Champions Cup 2014/15, Pool 2, Round 1, Leinster v Wasps. RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin.
9 October 2014; Jack McGrath, Leinster, is tackled by Guy Thompson, left, and Andy Goode, Wasps. European Rugby Champions Cup 2014/15, Pool 2, Round 1, Leinster v Wasps. RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin.

Leinster scrum coach Marco Caputo sees Australia coach Michal Cheika making a "special circumstances" plea for Kane Douglas to play for Australia.

"Michael's always about getting the right players on the field and Kane's an example," said Caputo.

"You could say the same about Matt Giteau, who is arguably playing the best rugby of his career over in Toulon. Drew Mitchell the same.

"I'm pretty sure Michael's going to have those conversations with the ARU around player availability.

"At the same time, they've got to protect their assets and don't open up a free market because, if they do, they could have a real problem on their hands.

"We don't have the player pool that the South Africans, the Kiwis have so we have to be careful, but I'm sure Michael will explore a special circumstances clause there somewhere, specifically for the World Cup".

In fact, Caputo was considering the idea of working for Cheika at the New South Wales Waratahs when the Leinster role came his way. They are firm friends.

"I haven't had any direct conversations with Michael, but I certainly know him well enough," he said.

"Look, I think it's a great appointment.

"At this point in time, with the situation Australian rugby finds itself in, with regard to player behaviour and that sort of stuff, he's probably the person they need at the moment.

"They need a strong leader, a strong voice and somebody to rattle the cage a little to get them back on track".

Cheika has not mellowed much from the time he came to Leinster for five seasons back in 2005. He has a history of taking talent and making the most of it.

"In Australian rugby, the Waratahs were renowned for underachieving year on year.

"The same could be said for Leinster before Michael came here, a team with all the resources, a large city and a history of underachievement. Michael was good enough to do the job, then he goes down in Leinster history as the architect of change.

"The same with the Waratahs. He put some steel in what was considered in Australian rugby as a team with a soft underbelly. I think he will do a great job for Australian rugby, I think Australian rugby is crying out for a guy like Michael".

It feels like such a long time ago when Leinster were the perennial under-achievers, the soft touch with the glamorous image and the superficial layer of substance.

It was only five years ago that Cheika turned Leinster into European kingpins. Time moves on quickly. Players too.


Gordon D'Arcy and Jamie Heaslip are the only two starters from 2009 who will role up at Castres Olympique on Sunday in what is certain to be a hothouse of pain.

The much-maligned Michael Bent was parachuted into the Leinster front row against Castres and he acquitted himself very well. There is still time for redemption.

"I know Michael Bent has had a little bit of stick with the Dublin public and supporters and even with you guys and I thought in the circumstances he did an outstanding job," pushed Caputo.

There is every reason to be optimistic about the recovery prospects of tight-head Mike Ross and full-back Rob Kearney to boost personnel.

"The fact that Mike was able to come in at the last minute and hold the scrum up and pretty much deliver when his team needed him to, will give him a huge amount of confidence".

And what about Castres at home? "I'm expecting them to be very abrasive and very confrontational," he said.

"Having played in the Top 14 myself and gone down to Castres as a player I know how much importance they place on 'la conquête,' - the scrummaging and the mauling - all the real confrontational aspects of the game."

"They'll come at us with their scrum. They'll try to drive us with their driving maul, and the confidence they can get from that. The crowd then becomes involved.

"If they spot a weakness they'll come after you there.

"It's just such a huge part of the French psyche of the French game, so we've got to be good in those areas.

"We answered a lot of those questions against Wasps. We're going to have to be even better".

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