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Tuesday 21 November 2017

Legacy of Cheika is assured, whatever final score

Leinster's final game of the season hands the players more than enough incentive to end the season on a high. And despite the squad's best efforts to play down the imminent sea change that is about to envelop the province, there is no doubt that they will try to use the situation to their advantage come tomorrow evening.

Whether it was coach or player departures reported in the media this week, the squad, to their credit, have been at pains to focus purely on the task at hand.

With all the comings and goings that will follow tomorrow's game, the team will want to finish on a high and have some silverware to show for what has been, in essence, another successful year.

Such is the nature of things, you can bet a large portion of Cheika's success will be attributed to the winning or losing of the game tomorrow evening. However, the impact that the departing coach has had on laying down firm foundations on which Leinster can now build means he deserves far more credit.

Cheika himself would dare not think in such a way, but such has been his contribution to the province that tomorrow's game in many ways will be irrelevant to the success of his reign.

There are not many coaches around in any sport that could be afforded such a luxury, but no one can deny that he has earned it.

Joe Schmidt, in taking on the head coaching role, will be acutely aware of what is needed at Leinster and the challenge for him will be daunting. Most coaches I know would not have it any other way.

He is arguably leaving France at the worst time. While Leinster accrued a financial loss in the past year, the wealth of the French clubs has now been placed in sharper focus.

With the likes of the mega-rich Toulon and Racing Metro to join the Heineken ranks next season, the challenge will become all the greater for the home nations, on and off the pitch. Leinster are still on a sound financial footing despite their financial loss, but competing with a larger number of wealthy French sides will make it more difficult to get the right players in to boost the squad's competitiveness.



Crossroads

In tandem with the current political issues at home regarding television revenue, it seems that the game itself in Ireland is fast approaching a crossroads.

From a player development perspective at least, the game here is on the right track, with everyone involved on the same page. We must make the most of the talent that we have as playing numbers, in relation to many other nations, are minuscule.

I believe that we are best placed to make the most of what we have.

Leinster, with so much to play for tomorrow evening, will hopefully keep their emotions in check. With home advantage and many other reasons already outlined, it still does not give them the right to the Magners League title. The Ospreys, who have been so close on so many occasions in both League and Cup, will feel that they deserve something in the cabinet. With so many well-known international players on the team, one does wonder why they have not tasted more success.

Ultimately, they have fallen short based on an inability to adapt a Plan B when all else has failed.

I always remember them as one of the toughest teams you could ever face, but you were always comfortable in the knowledge of which way they were going to play.

From what I have seen of them over the past few years, my view on their predictability has not changed much.

If Kurt McQuilkin can get one more big defensive performance out of his men, it will be Leinster's game to lose.

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