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Thursday 14 December 2017

Strauss insists Blues ready to 'Gow

RICHARDT Strauss knows the value of lasting the course.

Consistency is a journey, not a destination, and with the final two legs of this term before the March break providing stiff away tests, 'focus' and 'momentum' are the key buzzwords around the Leinster camp this week.

Those within the set-up understand the individual challenges that await this weekend in Scotland and next weekend in Italy.

With a 10-point buffer at the top of the PRO12, plus a home Heineken Cup berth to come in April, life is moving along pretty well for the province. But the focus remains on the present. The games that have gone before and the games that are to come are irrelevant.

And the 26-year-old hooker knows more about the game than to disregard the threat of a Glasgow side who, incidentally, defeated Leinster (19-23) back in the RDS on September 17. Since that frustrating night the two sides have met twice in the Heineken Cup, with Leinster having won on both occasions, but with a number of internationals unavailable it will be another major test for a squad which is likely to resemble that which started in September.

"Success does breed confidence", Strauss observes. "But you can't afford to take your eye off the ball. Not for one minute. And that's especially in a league as competitive as this."

So, the message from the Leinster camp this week is about maintaining focus and building from last weekend's win over the Scarlets. Faultless, Strauss reiterates, it certainly was not.

"I think that the guys showed a lot of guts and character to grind out the win. It was a little bit too close for comfort really and I'm sure it was pretty nerve-wracking for the supporters! The key with being on the kind of run of victories that we are on at the moment is that you can't dwell on what has gone before. We're not slapping each other on the back each week and assuming that we just have to turn up and win.

"The attitude and application by all of the guys has been spot on because there have been a lot of changes in personnel, as there always is at this time of year with guys into the international camps, yet the younger guys are really stepping up and making an impression. It's always a challenge when you play in another country, but it is exciting in a way. For some of the younger players this weekend, who might only have a handful of caps so far in their Leinster careers, this is another big chance to impress.

"And it's the same for the older guys too! It's great to play in the RDS and the excitement about playing there every second week still motivates each of us. When you're playing away though -- once all the travel is complete and you get out on the field you have to take the view that it's just another pitch and we prepare accordingly to go out there and do ourselves justice."

In the three years since he joined, Strauss has made a positive impact on and off the field of play. And it is the competitive nature of the front row, especially the hooker position, which is helping to get the best out of all four players.

"Obviously Seán (Cronin) is a fantastic player and he is likely to have Ireland commitments over the Six Nations," he says. "Aaron (Dundon) and Tom Sexton are working extremely hard in training and their form in the B&I Cup as well as in a number of PRO12 games has been really good.

"There are lots of players coming through in a whole host of positions across the team who are making an important impact, so none of the more experienced guys can ever feel 100pc settled in the team and that is helping us all to stay focused.

"Glasgow are a tough team and even though we've played them twice more this season since the pain of losing our home record to them in September, it still hurts. They too will have a lot of changes and they were very unlucky not to get the win but still got two points over in Connacht last weekend, which we know from experience is not easily achieved.

"The culture that we're trying to cultivate in this squad is to remain ruthless no matter who pulls on the jersey. You could see with the way in which the lads have approached training this week that they are seriously motivated to win.

"The intent is certainly there; it's all about applying ourselves in the manner which has got us to where we are and driving on for these last few away tests before the break in March."

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