Monday 18 December 2017

Ruddock is ready to start

Leinster and Ulster need to kick start their PRO12 seasons after Champions Cup woe

23 November 2015; Leinster's Ryhs Ruddock, right, and Royce Burke-Flynn in action during squad training. Leinster Rugby Squad Training. Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE
23 November 2015; Leinster's Ryhs Ruddock, right, and Royce Burke-Flynn in action during squad training. Leinster Rugby Squad Training. Rosemount, UCD, Belfield, Dublin. Picture credit: Ramsey Cardy / SPORTSFILE

Leinster will use the PRO12 as a means of fighting their way out of the darkness cast by the Champions Cup.

The same could be said for Ulster on foot of buckling to Saracens in Belfast.

It is not the end of the world, just the end of Europe. Probably. For both.

Of course, those inside the family circle cannot, and will not take the path of least resistance. They have to believe in mission impossible.

Rhys Ruddock took the deep anger and frustration of injury, felt from the turn of the year, out on Bath.

You couldn't blame the man for howling at the moon.

He had his forearm operated on twice last season, playing just twice from December to the end of the season.

He was a late call-up for the World Cup where he got to earn his sixth cap as a replacement against Argentina in that ill-fated quarter-final.

Since then, he recovered just in time from a minor wrist problem to feel the pain against Bath.

He was the single most effective Leinster player against Bath with and without the ball and, yet, it wasn't enough.

All is not lost just yet.

Wasps complete obliteration of Toulon showed what can be done in the name of the underdog.

"It does show that this group is so competitive and every team is probably going to be capable on their day of beating one another," he said.

"As disappointing and hard to take as the last two weeks have been, we know that on our day we can beat Toulon, on our day we can beat Wasps, and, as we proved, we were close to beating Bath away from home.

"We can definitely do it and we still whole-heartedly believe that."

The train must return to the tracks as quickly as possible or doubt and indecision will creep into the strongest minds.

It is difficult to countenance that it hasn't already.

"I'm not saying we're in a good place after the weekend, but we're definitely taking from that game (Wasps-Toulon) that these teams are beatable.

"We need to get our stuff right and the next couple of weeks are massive.

"We've got great opposition up to the Toulon games and it's about how we switch our focus now and prepare for Ulster.

"We've a six day turnaround to show that we're learning from the disappointment at the weekend."

The PRO12 is where it's at for Leinster.

They need to recover their confidence there ahead of the forecasted doom and gloom waiting for them in the south of France next month.

"I think as much as we're hurting as a pack from the weekend, if we do learn from it, flip the page and put in a big performance this week we can start to move forward.

"We can start to feel a bit positive about ourselves as a pack again."

Sadly, this is indicative of a pack of forwards that has come out second-best on successive weekends.


Wasps brought into question their preparation and the fallout from the World Cup for The Champions Cup.

Bath made it a case of form, durability and confidence.

In other words, there are concerns in so many areas, it is difficult to know where to start.

This was, perhaps, the main issue moving from Wasps to Bath.

"We had a lot to work on from the week before," said the flanker.

"There's lots to think about. We brought a lot of intent which we were happy with.

"In terms of the physicality, it was definitely a step up and a move in the right direction, compared to the week before.

"It's not like we took the game light heartedly."

Even so, there are so many technical pieces to any given rugby puzzle that not everything can be rectified in six days.

Where the emphasis on physicality was ramped up, the foundation blocks of scrum and lineout came unstuck.

"Sometimes you get caught," pointed out Ruddock.

"It could be in any area. And as it proved, if you get caught at scrum-time, it can have a huge influence on the game.

"This week will be another massive test and I hope as a pack we show what it means to us to be beaten at scrum-time.

"You will see how we are hurting from that result."

Leinster have to deliver on their pride and execution.

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