herald

Tuesday 17 July 2018

Warrior spirit of key men sets Blues apart

Leinster need five points before making the treacherous trip to mighty Montpellier

Tadhg Furlong of Leinster on the charge during the Guinness PRO14 match against Ulster. Pics: Sportsfile
Tadhg Furlong of Leinster on the charge during the Guinness PRO14 match against Ulster. Pics: Sportsfile

The definition of a Warrior, as a person engaged or experienced in warfare, does not fit snugly around Glasgow.

It isn't a slight on the Scottish club to suggest their full name does not best reflect how they play the game.

They are sleek and fast, usually looking to move the ball away from the combat zone where their quick hands and men can wreak havoc.

It isn't a confrontational style that anyone would associate with a 'Warrior' mentality.

Perhaps the Glasgow Greyhounds would better reflect how they do what they do.

Their preferred option is to play to space, travel around trouble rather than through the guts of it.

Anyway, Leinster dominated their Sunday lunch guests in round two at Scotstoun by engaging Glasgow in the tight.

Coach Stuart Townsend, now at Scotland, took the Blues' template, constructed under Joe Schmidt, and applied it to Glasgow.

They have been able to sweep up a PRO12 League title in 2015.

Little progress

However, there has been precious little progress in Europe where last year's quarter-final exit to Saracens is the best they could manage.

Robbie Henshaw in action for Leinster against Ulster’s Darren Cave at the RDS.
Robbie Henshaw in action for Leinster against Ulster’s Darren Cave at the RDS.

In the meantime, Leinster, the three-time European Cup winners, have transformed into a 'forwards-first' operation. Sure, they have a fine backline loaded with X-Factor from Garry Ringrose, Joey Carbery, James Lowe and Jordan Larmour.

But, the foundation of their game starts up front where they have an incredible 16 Ireland forwards, four of them Lions, and the superb Wallaby Scott Fardy.

These building blocks are close to unbreakable.

It would make little or no sense for Leinster to move away from the game plan that broke Glasgow in Scotstoun.

They have to show the same Warrior mentality to wrestle away the points so necessary ahead of going to Montpellier in the last round.

These are the man that will lead the charge.

1. TADHG FURLONG

It all starts up front where the British & Irish Lions tight-head is a standard bearer and a trend setter.

The Mike Ross school of scrummaging is all about establishing a solid platform to build from.

This has passed down to the Wexford man as a sound set-piece operator not inclined to take a backward step.

It is his obliterating, accurate ruck work, destructive wide-ranging defence and barrelling carrying game that can cause the most trouble.

The cherry on top is the footballing nuance and intelligence that enables the prop to do things over and above his core duties.

2. CIAN HEALY/JACK McGRATH

The luxury is in having an either/or scenario on the other side of the front row.

The once imperious Healy is rapidly returning to his best as a dynamic scrummager, intent on turning tight-heads to mud.

There is no doubt the 30 year-old would be right up there with Mako Vunipola were The Lions travelling anywhere on Sunday.

However, McGrath has shaken off a slow start to the season to have his best game against Ulster last weekend.

The indications are there that this is the best one-two punch combination in Europe.

3. SCOTT FARDY

The Wallaby back five forward has revelled at his new club.

He will have to take up the slack left by the probable absence of Sean O'Brien, although Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier are not shrinking violets.

The finer points of the game have been accompanied by a real relish for the battle.

His work rate is second-to-none. His constant chatter ensures no one sleeps on the job.

4. JOHNNY SEXTON

Ireland's most important player is Leinster's talisman and target man, the former for the difference he makes, the latter for the difference his absence can make. Above all, this is most apparent in the way he leads the line in defence.

The out-half, frustrated by being tagged with the stigma of concussion, plays fearlessly.

When he rushes up in defence, the rest of the backline has to follow his lead.

He waits for no man, no matter how big or powerful, defending his upright style of tackling this week as his best way of taking man and ball.

5. ROBBIE HENSHAW

Stung by losing out to Ben Te'o for the first British & Irish Lions test shirt, the centre has rebounded in typical no-nonsense fashion.

There is a natural toughness to his game, perhaps inherited from his front row father Tony.

Already a specimen at 6'3" and over 103kilos (16st 3lbs), the Athlone battler plays like an even bigger man.

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