Saturday 16 February 2019

Fardy is key to Cullen's drive for success

Scott Fardy (left) and Josh Murphy of Leinster after their recent victory over Ulster in the PRO14 match at the RDS. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Scott Fardy (left) and Josh Murphy of Leinster after their recent victory over Ulster in the PRO14 match at the RDS. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The modern game of rugby can be a fickle sport indeed, and many players can only dream of the life and money of a professional rugby player.

But we only have to look at the recent injuries to young Irish rugby star Garry Ringrose to realise that, as a player, if you remain unscarred for even a decent period of your increasingly shortened career then you are one of the lucky ones.

Ringrose had only just returned from a long-term shoulder injury and was finding his feet, looking forward to a good season with Leinster and Ireland.

Now he must go back to square one after an ankle injury that will keep him out for another protracted period.

It must be highly frustrating for a young player who burst onto the international scene just a season or so ago and now faces more time on the surgeon's table.

It is a lesson to all young players who think that life as a professional rugby player is plain sailing. Injury is one of those things that can shatter dreams fairly quickly and also effect player's confidence and mental health. I know - I've been that person.

Ex -Wallaby and now Leinster's main go-to man, Scott Fardy, has called for his in-form Leinster side not to take Glasgow too lightly this weekend when Leinster resume their European Champions Cup challenge in the RDS.

The big Australian probably does not need to fear things quite as much as he and Leinster might have at the start of the season. Fardy is the Rocky Elsom, Brad Thorn, Nathan Hines type of signing Leinster did not have last year.


He is that "mongrel" type of player that all Southern Hemisphere teams talk about needing, and at this stage, if Leinster can continue their impressive run, then Fardy is close to being the best signing of the year in European rugby.

While he played at blindside flanker for the Wallabies, Fardy is best employed in the second row for Leinster, as it allows Leo Cullen to select another specialist blindside flanker such as Dan Leavy or Ryhs Ruddock (prior to his injury).

Jordi Murphy and Josh Van der Flier also offer options to make up a more dynamic loose forward trio.

As far as the visitors are concerned, this weekend's game has lost some of its gloss since Glasgow appear to have lost a bit of interest in Europe after they were dropped from the race before Christmas.

But while Glasgow seemed to have indicated that they will rotate their squad and give some of their big names like Finn Russell, Johnny Gary and Stuart Hogg a rest in order to help Scotland, they will still be competitive.

As with Leinster this season, sometimes young players can come into a squad and actually play better than the incumbents.

They can inject positivity and youthful exuberance into a side, and any player selected for Glasgow this weekend will want to prove that they should be there starting every week. This is their chance to shine and that is what their coach Dave Rennie will focus on.

But with a change in selection you also sometimes lose vital experience, momentum and a willingness to fight for every inch in a competition that you are effectively out of.

Glasgow's resolve will be far less than Leinster's in this competition and the Blues are determined to go one better than they did last year and more than anxious for silverware to go with their form.

The sides have already met twice this season; the first a Champions Cup encounter in which Leinster came out on top 34-18, and the second a PRO14 clash which Glasgow won 31-21.

It will take a very good team to deny Leinster something tangible this year as they fight on two fronts. Granted, it may come later against one of the big heavyweights in Europe but the way Leinster are playing at the moment they should fear no team.

Not only is it the manner in which they are winning, it is their ability to keep chopping and changing their team and still continue in cruise mode. Like Connacht the week before, Ulster rolled out as many big guns as they could to defeat Leinster, including a backline that included Irish capped players, a Wallaby and an ex All-Black.

It did not make any difference. Leinster were just dominant in all areas. In fact, such was their overall performance, allied to the continued re-emergence of Fergus McFadden and form of new star Jordan Lamour, Joe Schmidt may have the majority of his Irish backline from the one province, Conor Murray apart.

Leinster paved the way with a display up front that stranded the visitors and it started with their loose forwards.

Glasgow will continue to play the way they are coached, with width and speed, but Leinster should dominate most of the possession and territory.

With that, as well as their form and experience, they will go in search of a bonus point win that will allow them to take a breather before facing Montpellier next week.

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