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Monday 20 November 2017

Kurt tackles final battle

Blues defence coach McQuilkin plots big finish against Ospreys

As the seasons change, so too do the players and coaches in this game. Rosters must be cleaned out and restacked like some sort of super- market sports outlet.

Incoming coach Joe Schmidt will be saddled with a monumental task of taking Leinster forward should they beat off The Ospreys in the Magners League Grand Final on Saturday. The only way will be down unless Leinster repeat their feat in the Magners or go one better than the semi-final in the Heineken Cup. The New Zealander could do with a degree of continuity next season.

Schmidt won't get that from out-going defence coach and fellow Kiwi Kurt McQuilkin.

It is time for him to kick back with his family at his house by Lake Taupo, near Hamilton, and contemplate 'what next?'

"I met with him (Schmidt). We sat down and had a chat. He is a hell of a nice guy and a hell of a good coach with a good reputation. It was tempting. At the end of the day, I decided to go down the other track for a while," said McQuilkin.

"It is a good time now with the new coach coming in, and Michael obviously leaving, for me to step aside too and give the players a new voice, new ideas to take the club further on up the ladder.

"It is time for the players to have a change from me and for me to step back and re-gather myself and have another lick at it down the line," he said.

He was keen to point out the very Irish graduation he has taken through the coaching ranks to become a central plank in Leinster's game strategy.



Stars

"I am a product of the Irish coaching system, not the New Zealand one, not at all," he said. "I owe a hell of a lot to Irish rugby and Leinster rugby, not only for my playing career, but also for my coaching career."

It is not exactly a closely guarded secret that The Ospreys will bring a galaxy of stars, a clever Australian coach in Scott Johnson and any number of threats from one to 15.

McQuilkin's brief will be to pressurise, smother and fully cover against all dangers from Lee Byrne at full-back to Adam Jones at tight-head prop. It is the sort of stress that keeps defence coaches up at night.

In addition, the statistics do not lie. Of the top six clubs in the regular season, Leinster are the only one that has conceded more tries (29) than it has scored (27). Connacht is the only club in the Magners League that has planted less tries.

It has been transformed from all-out attack under their mercurial former backs coach David Knox into a pragmatic, even dogmatic side which is all about winning.

In fact, Leinster managed to gain the number one seed by finishing top of the table at the conclusion of the regular season with the second worst attack and only the fifth best defence in terms of the try count.

"Across the park, they can hurt you -- strength, skill and physicality," admitted McQuilkin.

"It really focuses the mind. The boys are really up for it and know, if we aren't on our game, there is a chance we could lose it in front of our home crowd.

"We know what is at stake and what we need to do."

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