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Thursday 15 November 2018

Leinster stars lead PRO14 'Dream Team'

It came as no surprise to see Leinster dominate the 2017/2018 Guinness PRO14 Awards in Glasgow last night, with coach Leo Cullen winning the Coach of the Year accolade.

Munster's Tadhg Beirne earned the Player of the Year award in his previous incarnation with Scarlets.

Young Player of the Year Jordan Larmour is one of five Leinster men to make the coveted Dream Team, alongside foreign signings James Lowe and Scott Fardy, prop Andrew Porter and number eight Jack Conan.

Looking ahead, the first batch of tickets for the 2019 Guinness PRO14 final at Celtic Park go on sale today.

It wouldn't be a reach to suggest Leinster supporters might just take a punt on making a purchase based on what happened last season and what they expect to happen at the business end of this one.

Rugby coaches have to be more pragmatic than that.

Wanted

Stuart Lancaster has rehabilitated his coaching reputation to such a degree that the man once deemed untouchable in English rugby circles is now a wanted man, for all of the right reasons.

"We had success and the challenge now is to back it up," he said.

The priorities for Lancaster are to dig deep for the small marginal gains that can keep Leinster one step ahead of those chasing them in the PRO14 and in the Champions Cup.

The long road to Celtic Park and Newcastle United's St James' Park, the venue for the Champions Cup final, began last month when the pages of a new season were turned.

"To be fair, when they came back in we started with our attack shape and how we are looking to evolve our attack," said Lancaster. "But, there then comes a point when we need to flip our attention to our defence."

To illustrate the holes in Leinster's defence, Lancaster showed on screen the tries they conceded last season.

"It was a good opportunity just to remind people," he added.

"You look at if there are any trends as to why we conceded and where we conceded, times of the game and situations.

"So, I did that analysis and I wanted to remind them some key things."

The fluidity of Leinster attack will be underpinned by the grunt work of those inside, with the maul expected to be an area for scrutiny and improvement.

There were times when the Blues' maul couldn't budge the bigger sides and when they were blown backwards last season.

This is where coach Cullen can lead the way, given his personal experience as the ultimate spoiler.

"If we can improve in some areas, whether it is line-out defence or edge defence, then we have a better chance of winning more games," said Lancaster. "Equally, if we can convert in this area we can translate that into more tries."

LIST OF IRISH GUINNESS PRO14 WINNERS

Players' Player of the Season: T Beirne (Scarlets)

Coach of the Season: L Cullen (Leinster)

Young Player of the Season: J Larmour (Leinster)

Top Try Scorer: B Daly (Leinster).

PRO14 LEAGUE DREAM TEAM:

B Kinghorn (Edinburgh); J Larmour (Leinster), N Grigg (Glasgow), H Parkes (Scarlets), J Lowe (Leinster); R Patchell (Scarlets), J Cooney (Ulster); R Evans (Scarlets), T van Jaarsveld (Cheetahs), A Porter (Leinster), S Fardy (Leinster), T Beirne (Scarlets), A Shingler (Scarlets), C Gibbins (Glasgow, Capt), J Conan (Leinster).

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