Sunday 19 January 2020

Pressure on returning stars to regain starting places

Jamison Gibson-Park
Jamison Gibson-Park
Caelan Doris

There was a constant theme at Leinster through the World Cup.

Those left behind were not on site to babysit the shirts, they were committed to holding onto what they had taken from the PRO14 League.

Previously, the mantra had been all about leasing the Blue jumper, leaving it in a better place than it had been found.

The last two months, there has been a stress on ownership, taking it with the sole purpose of keeping it. There have been accusations made about Ireland's failure to reward form at the World Cup.

It will be interesting to witness how Leinster will interpret the merits of players operating at two completely different levels of the game.

The message from Stuart Lancaster tends towards Ireland's World Cup crew needing to make their case for inclusion against Benetton on Saturday (KO 3.15, BT Sport).

"What's happened is the lads have come back from the World Cup, there's been no hangover because they can't afford it.

"They realise that if they don't perform in training they're not going to get picked."

The injury to Sean Cronin looks like making Ronan Kelleher a certainty for hooker and Jack Conan's absence makes for an interesting conundrum in the back row.


LUKE McGRATH (RWC: Played: 5, 1 Start - 146 mins)  v JAMISON GIBSON-PARK (PRO14: Played: 6, 5 Starts - 326 mins)

The most intriguing decision centres around the Ireland-qualified credentials of Gibson-Park.

At last, the scrum-half cannot be warded-off by having to make way for Scott Fardy and James Lowe.

The level playing field is there for the Kiwi to compete with Ireland's number two scrum-half.

It is far too simple to make the comparison between the tempo of Gibson-Park against the tenacity of McGrath.

What is relevant is that the former has spent the last two months starting, while the latter has been sprung from the bench.


RHYS RUDDOCK (RWC: Played 3; Start: 1 - 128 mins) v CAELAN DORIS (PRO14: Played: 5; Starts: 4 - 277 mins)

When Leinster have struggled for manpower at number eight in the past, Ruddock has come to the rescue with varying degrees of success.

The back row forward could well be accommodated on the blindside of the scrum, despite the fine form of Josh Murphy in the early stage of the season.

The loss of Conan can be turn out to be Doris's personal gain, even though the promising Max Deegan has made a late charge for recognition in the back row, starting at eight in two of Leinster's last three rounds of the PRO14.

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