Friday 15 December 2017

Matt O'Connor: Pro12 and Leinster hurt by Ireland

Leinster coach lashes out at the Ireland Player Welfare system

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connor
Leinster's Fergus McFadden in action during squad training. UCD, Belfield

Australians don't do whinging. They do winning.

Anything that gets in the way of that is a sore point for Matt O'Connor.

In his eyes, Leinster are lodged unimpressively in fifth place in the PRO12 League with The Champions Cup quarter-final just around the corner.

He badly needs access to all of his players in order to find the rhythm and fluency to, first, climb into the Top-4 and, second, water down Bath.

READ MORE: Leinster boss Matt O'Connor hits out at Ireland over missing stars

Glasgow Warriors coach Gregor Townsend is able to call on nine Scotland internationals with forwards Fraser Brown, Tim Swinson and Rob Harley and backs Stuart Hogg, Finn Russell, Mark Bennett and Tommy Seymour starting.

In contrast, O'Connor has at his disposal last week's Ireland replacements Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan Marty Moore and Jordi Murphy with Sean Cronin, Cian Healy and Luke Fitzgerald on offer from the bench.

"I think the management system needs to be restructured. I think it hurts the League," stated O'Connor.

"There's a lot of games in the PRO12 that are impacted on by the lack of availability from test players.

"If we're talking about competing with the bigger Leagues in Europe, in relation to the Top-14 and The Premiership, and the ability to maximise the commercial potential of those, we need to look at how often the very best marquee players are playing PRO12 rugby for Leinster."


For the moment, O'Connor will have to suck it up and see where it takes Leinster.

"That's the system," said O'Connor bluntly. It's disappointing that other guys (for Glasgow) are playing and we haven't got a full group to pick from.

"The reality is that's what we're dealt. That's what we have to get along with. There's no point whinging about it," he said.

"It's about us. It's about the blokes in the environment, the blokes in the shirt and they're the only ones that matter.

"It's trying to get the best out of those guys to come up with the performance and the result."

When pressed on the matter of the obvious restrictions imposed on Leinster, in-effect being punished for their success in providing the bulk of the Ireland Six Nations squad, he had this much to say.

"The financial implications are the biggest issue and that is where we need to get a little bit of clarity.

"There is a player welfare issue and there is what is the League going to be worth?

"What The Premiership and the Top-14 have shown is that there is a marquee product there, if you have your best players available more often.

"I think that we need to go with the Pro12 and I think there is no doubt that there are benefits in managing players and making sure that they are in a very good physical and mental space to play at a higher intensity as often as they can.

"But I think that needs to be discussed in a lot more detail than it is currently."

The Leinster coach did have the opportunity to state his case to repatriate as many of Ireland's starters as possible.

"That's the decision that the Irish management made in relation to the player management system," he offered up.

"There was a conversation. How two way it was is debatable. It's not an issue for today. It's about trusting the blokes that we've got in the environment to deliver.

"It's not about being disappointed or frustrated or any other thing. It's about making sure the blokes cracked on Monday to beat Glasgow. That's the way we've approached it.

"Once we get past Glasgow we'll worry about Bath and then we'll worry about what we've got. Hopefully, we're fighting really hard on two fronts in two weeks time."

There is genuine fear Leinster could miss out on the PRO12 play-offs were they to go under to Glasgow this evening.

There is real motivation for The Warriors to take down what they see as their greatest threat, the club that beat them in last year's final.

"I think the stakes are so high that there is a genuine sharpness to the preparation," said O'Connor.

"Because it is right there and tangible in front of the guys' faces.

"You haven't got the ability to get it wrong. You haven't got the luxury of one or two lead-in games.

"You've got to be really, really good from the off.

"From that end, I wouldn't have an issue from where our guys have come back into the environment this week.

"The handful that come back to us next week will be the same, making sure that it's only about what happens to Leinster over the next two or three weeks."



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