RIP Leinstertainment

There was a documentary released a tad over 20 years ago called ‘An Impossible Job’ about Graham Taylor’s inept attempt to qualify England for the soccer World Cup in the USA. Taylor had a couple of fundamental issues that made his job impossible – he took it on right after England had achieved what was (and still is) their best performance in a major tournament not held in England, and the sky high expectations of fans who weren’t of a disposition to accept that Carlton Palmer and Les Ferdinand perhaps weren’t quite as good as Ronald Koeman and Ruud Gullit.

Its a decent comparison to Matt O’Connor’s lot when taking over from Joe Schmidt at Leinster – two Heineken Cups, a Euro-vase and a Pro12 title (in their third successive final) were won with style and verve and Leinster fans have become a little sated. Following Schmidt out the door were Isa Nacewa (retirement) and Jonny Sexton (Croissants and Coffee) to be replaced by Jimmy Gopperth (Newcastle Falcons) and Zane Kirchner (in November).

Schmidt was revered by Leinster fans for his intelligent and accurate rugby and for the feral manner in which his charges hoovered up the best in Europe and spat them out. Eviscerations of opponents in the RDS/Aviva were common and Leinstertainment became a frequently-used truism about the best team Irish provincial rugby has produced. O’Connor came unheralded from Leicester Tigers, an excellent team but associated with a style some Leinster fans consider beneath them – conveniently forgetting both the way Mike Cheika steadied the ship by grinding out wins through Ollie le Roux and Stan Wright, and how the sainted Schmidt’s teams played away from home in Europe, where ruthless pragmatism was the order of the day.

Leinster won the Pro12 in style last year, but limped out of Europe, albeit against a frightening Toulon team – the season was reasonably successful, and, on paper, better than the previous one where Leinster were dumped out of the HEC early and would surely have lost the final had Ulster not had to cede home advantage. That Leinster have lost some of their sheen is in no doubt – the accuracy of the Schmidt era felt like it ebbed away last year and the team often laboured in possession. O’Connor, predictably, got most of the blame, but there are some pretty big mitigating factors.

Leinster’s starting pack contains five current Ireland starters (DJ Church, Rosser, Lighthouse Toner, SOB and Heaslip), one player expected to make a serious push for the XV this year (Rhys Ruddock), and Ireland’s entire backup front row are Leinstermen. This pack anchored the Six Nations champions and has been among the best in Europe for several year now. In contrast, the current roster of backs is arguably the third best in Ireland, with only Bob a guaranteed Ireland starter. O’Connor lost his two most influential backs before he started and Leinster’s best ever player after his first season. They were not adequately replaced, although Kirchner was increasingly finding his feet as his first year went on. It’s pretty easy to see why playing a forward-oriented game suits his personnel.

One of the biggest rods used to beat O’Connor is the Ian Madigan one – we have been Madigan fans from year zilch, and he is an outstanding natural talent. The accepted wisdom among a significant chunk of the Leinster support was that, not only was Mads a sure thing to smoothly step into Jonny’s shoes, but it was actually a good thing that Sexton was forced abroad, as it would save the new coach the headache of how to fit both Madigan and Sexton into the team. We were worried that it wouldn’t be as easy as that – Sexton was the Lions fly-half and a key driver of the team. Sure, Mads looked great off the bench or against mediocre opponents in the Pro12, but it’s a different game with the pressure on.

Last year, O’Connor selected the journeyman (sorry, but it’s true) Gopperth ahead of Madigan for all the big games, and the perception was the Madigan was getting a raw deal . Mads did finish the season very strongly, for province and country, but there is no doubt who MOC saw as his first choice 10. It’s easy, and convenient, to jump on the “MOC ruined Mads” bandwagon but we just aren’t buying it – if Madigan was tearing up trees in training and MOC thought he could execute the game he wanted to play, he’d have been picked. Simples. But he couldn’t get Gopperth out of the team.

Now this season, Leinster have started the year poorly, and #MOCOut was trending on Twitter on Friday. But, again, it’s another over-reaction – it’s not quite in the Hook “Schmidt has lost the dressing room” from September 2010, but it’s just not that simple. For a start, the  first two games kind of went to the script:

  • Glasgow (A) – loss, with bonus point. Glasgow are one of the best sides in the league, and Leinster had humiliated them in their last fixture – they could expect a massive reaction. Glasgae were at home, and Leinster never start well – a losing bonus point was what most expected going into the fixture
  • Scarlets (H) – win, with bonus point. When you are pissed off and want a game to play yourself back into form, home to the Scarlets is about as good as it gets. Tackling is optional and set pieces are easy. Sweet – five points and all is well.
  • Connacht (A) – loss, with bonus point. Now, the performance was poor, and a team with 11 internationals should do better. But its a perennial bogey fixture for Leinster, and they were playing  a Connacht team with momentum and chips on their shoulder big enough to earn Axel’s respect. A setback, but not an absolute disaster.

Leinster need to get their season going, but not only is it early days, the fixture list from here to Christmas is packed with winnable fixtures – indeed, it’s entirely feasible they won’t lose again until Stephen’s Day, when passion and honesty will be in the brave and faithful air in Limerick. Have a look:

  • September: home to Cardiff is essentially a banker. Nothing to see here
  • October: the Big Match in the Palindrome against Munster – normally an awful spectacle, but Leinster will be favourites and aren’t likely to fall flat here. Then it’s Zebre away and Wasps at the RDS – two wins surely. Next up is a trip to Castres to face the HEC’s favourite bunnies – assuming they don’t try a jot in the ERCC as well, Leinster’s pack should make this one winnable. Last up, Embra at home – five points please.
  • November: it will be the reserves, but then Leinster’s are better than most. Treviso away and the Hairsprays at home – both eminently winnable, although Ospreys typically make life difficult for Leinster.
  • December: first up, the double-header with Quins. Quins are slowly sagging backwards from the Premiership-winning season three years ago, and were tonked 39-0 by Globo Gym at the Stoop a few weeks ago. Again, Leinster will see this as an achievable two wins, but one win might be enough in any case so long as they come out ahead on match points over the two legs. Then, before the trip to Thomond, it’s Connacht at home, where there will be a whiff of you-know-what in the air.

Sure, Leinster have started slowly, but let’s keep things in perspective. The strength of the pack means Leinster will contend in every game, and cause celebre Madigan has started the season well. This year is going to be more pragmatic rugby, but rather than ruing O’Connor not being Joe Schmidt, merely winning games is still… winning games. And Leinster’s pack is brilliant. It wasn’t always this way.

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56 Comments

  1. Tran

     /  September 22, 2014

    I can’t say I’d agree wholeheartedly about your assessment about Leinster having an easy run between now and St Stephen’s Day lads. Ospreys at home are probably as bit a bananaskin for Leinster as Connacht at the Sportsground, and given that they’ll hardly lose any players (AWJ, Biggar, *maybe* Webb and *maybe* Walker), it could be closer than you’d hope. Then again, it’s hard to judge them on their three wins since they’ve had probably the easiest opening fixtures (Zebre, Dragons, Edinburgh) of everyone.

    A lot of the other stuff seems spot on though. It’ll be interesting to see how the pack responds to being absolutely knackered at scrumtime by Connacht. I doubt Joe was particularly happy to see McGrath and Healy especially underperform to such a degree in the tight.

  2. Leinsterlion

     /  September 22, 2014

    “Mike Cheika steadied the ship by grinding out wins through Ollie le Roux and Stan Wright”
    Which we cant even do, as evinced by our aimless kicking game and inability to “grind out” a win playing route one rugby on fri. We are not even good at playing crap rugby, thats the issue.

    “..if Madigan was tearing up trees in training ”
    As opposed to whatever Gopperth is doing in games? Madigan has had more high quality games then Gopperth, as Allen Iverson says, “we talking ’bout practice, not a game, practice”. Gopperth is mediocre, Madigan is not, Madigan should start, end of story.

    ” MOC thought he could execute the game he wanted to play”
    Do tell, what exactly is this game plan you speak of? Kick the leather of the ball, preferably down the opposing full backs throat +whatever else Gopperth does when he is on the pitch?

    “merely winning games is still… winning games.”
    Apart from against the noted giants of the Irish game, internationals to a man, Connacht.

    MOC is a clown, out of his depth. MOC out, anyone with a coherent tactical plan that doesnt involve Gopperth aimlesly kicking the ball away, apply to Leinster rugby, D4, Ireland.

  3. Andrew097

     /  September 22, 2014

    Thought last year Leinster won on muscle memory, those tight games they won were the ones they were in a habit of winning. You could still see the cracks in the performances, things like passing, rucks and set pieces were just a little off. A kicking game that was very poorly executed and remained so for the entire season. Often the frustration was seeing the same faults week in week out
    Some of the selections of teams were strange, leaving Goppert on the bench for weeks then popping him on the side in Toulon to kick the dimples off the ball was a strange one. As for a injured ex ex Aussie international was a little patronising to the perceived standards of the league. You just feel that MOC was brought up in a school where all NH rugby was dreadful and the Pro 12s success in Europe was because the players were resting.
    Time will tell which half of Leinster support is right the “alarm bells” fan or the ” just another year”
    As for Leinster fans think the Leicester way is not good enough that’s not fair is their rugby culture and we have nothing but respect for that but our rugby culture is slightly diffrent not really any better but something we are comfortable with. A rugby culture most Leinster fans believes suits us best

    • The culture of the Tigers – winning and pragmatism – is something that Leinster were crying out for when Cheika came in. Ideally, you win and play great watchable rugby, but which would you take first?

      • aoifehamill

         /  September 22, 2014

        Spot on – I’d take winning ugly all the way.

        • D6W

           /  September 22, 2014

          So would i. But losing ugly, like we are currently doing? Not so much.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 22, 2014

            This^, as Dunshaw famously said when Munster were winning playing cancerous stuff, “I dont care, I have a medal in my are pocket”, now they are losing and not playing very well, and Leinster the same, you win things in spite of playing crap rugby, New Zealand (and formerly)Toulouse’s long term success playing the right way backs it up(as does Leinster brief domination of all and sundry under Schmidt).

      • but we are not winning ugly, last year we won the pro 12 on muscle memory and were a very poor second best to Toulon. So there is no argument there. Which would you prefer losing pretty or losing ugly which at the moment is our choice. Not fair comment really but it might be the next few months. Hope not

    • Facezook

       /  September 22, 2014

      What is the ‘Leinster rugby culture’ in your view Andrew? You have pointed out plenty of flaws in MOC’s game but no solutions. What would bring it back to the ‘LRC’ out of interest?

      • andrew097

         /  September 23, 2014

        I always feel Leinster rugby culture is about using all fifteen playeers on the pitch, Probabaly much too do with the schools system whose big teams used width as much as power. Leinster under Cheka got a little steel but we needed an outsider to tell us that, for the early part of the H cup we would be great in the pools often backs cutting loose but it was papering over some glearing problems in the pack. When the set pieces became really competatnt then Leinster started hitting the finals.
        Each coach has a philosphy and Joe was pushing against an open door in Leinster because it takes very little to encourage teams in Leinster to play a bit. But Joe made roughly 15 Irishmen get their basics right, body lines and skills, then their decision making right. Put together and they really became something. Its a game that suits Leinster and that run it rugby culture It suits our body types and temperment. Quick, thiinking fast agressive rugby create a lot of decisions in our bigger less nimble opposition and thrive in the chaos. At the moment Joes KPIs are disappearing.
        I have seen Leinster play four times this season and on each occasion the opposition turned up to play Leinster lost. Leinster look fairly well drilled this season but they do not look like they are thinking.

  4. Losing O’Driscoll, Sexton and Nacewa is going to hurt any backline. So no one is expecting Leinster to be putting 40 points on every team, scoring tries from in side their 22. It’s just not going to happen. That’s fair enough. On top of that, losing Schmidt means things are going to go downhill a bit. To be expected.

    However, to go downhill this much?

    MOC’s gameplan seems to be about out-muscling the other forwards. So lets look at the pack. Who have Leinster lost? Not much. So the only change in the forwards there is the coaching staff. Regardless of what the backline makes of the ball they get, the forwards should be providing them with the ball, much like in the Schmidt. They’re not, and it can’t be put down to losing players, because they haven’t.

    The scoreline and losing bonus point against Glasgow flatters and doesn’t change the fact that Leinster should have come away with nothing and Glasgow should have had a TBP. They didn’t, and well done to Leinster for that, but lets not claim we were anything but bad in that game. Scarlets was a good result, but as you say, it’s the Scarlets, at home. Against what was a pumped up and very good Connacht side on the day – Leinster were as bad (after 15 minutes) as I’ve seen them in the last 5 years. Many games last year were the same. We were quite simply bad, but managed to get results, often TBP results. It was very odd. It’s the same as last year though – we’re simply not accurate enough, they don’t seem focused and often seem like they don’t know what to do on the pitch. There doesn’t seem to be a player taking the games by the scruff of the neck.

    Unless we lose every single game between now and Christmas, there is no way in hell MOC will be anywhere but in charge of Leinster come next Summer. He’s not going to be sacked, nor do I think he should be. However, he doesn’t not deserve a contract extension – it’s a two year contract right?

    TLDR: Some of the stick MOC gets is simply down to unrealistic expectations sure. But a LOT of it is not.

  5. aoifehamill

     /  September 22, 2014

    I agree that #MOCout is a total over-reaction. As you say, it wasn’t an ideal situation to join the club in terms of everyone loving the previous coach and important players being on their way out the door. I think part of the problem with him is that he’s not particularly likeable. Even Cheika who was pretty grumpy at times had a bit more charm. Obviously being likeable or having “good face” doesn’t necessarily make you better or worse at the job of being coach but it does impact how the fans feel and how the media report on various successes and failures. It’s not fair but it’s true…

    As for Gopperth… Even though I prefer Madigan (like nearly everyone except MOC), I think people are over the top hard on him.

  6. I think the MOC-out stuff is played up. Most of what I saw on Facebook and Twitter after Friday’s game was Leinster fans being gracious towards Connacht in defeat and/or shrugging their shoulders and saying “Ah, it’s early in the season yet.” As one wag put it, “You should know by now not to put them on your coupon until the Munster game”.

  7. Mike

     /  September 22, 2014

    The number of times Leinster just booted the ball (into the wind) straight to Darragh Leader suprised me. I think one of the main criticisms of MoC is that the players don’t seem capable of changing up their game plan in play the way they did under Schmidt.

  8. Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

     /  September 22, 2014

    Anyone else remember Cheika’s first season was a “We’ll score more trys than them” campaign.
    He added the steel after that.

    • That’s right. It was only under Cheika that Contepomi became a central figure in the team. It was really when Cullen and Jennings returned that Leinster’s pack got a bit of steel into it, thugh Hogan and Keogh were good placeholders too. Bernard Jackman also became an important player.

      I think he said that one of his coches ut it to him that ‘four times out of five we’d have lost that game [to Toulouse]’ and that the pack required a beef injection if Leinster were to be consistently competitive.

  9. From the group of lads who I head to the games with the main issues with MOC would be his game plan and team selections.

    His gameplans seem to consist of either kicking the ball down the throats of the oppostition full back or 1 out pops to stationary forwards who are usually well marked by the opposition. Granted we don’t have the backline talent we used to have but there doesnt appear to be too many intricate training ground backline moves in operation these days.

    Selectionwise his love for playing players that people would feel are more conservative also irritates people. The obvious point is Gopperth who has flaws which never seem to count against him in selection while it would appear that the more mercurial Madigan only has to put a foot wrong to get dropped from the 10 position. Boss has also had a run of bad form but still gets selected week in week out while McGrath who is in bad need of blooding given the ages of boss / reddan sits on the bench at best. Granted McGrath has made two big mistakes when he has come on this year but thats what happens when you only get 5 minute cameo’s for a team which is on the verge of losing. The continuous selection of Fanning, who is a good solid player but will never offer anything more, over younger more raw wingers is also a case in point.

  10. Sound Steve

     /  September 22, 2014

    Good points, well made. People lamenting the style of rugby need to realise that Leinster simply don’t have the backs anymore. When Fergus McFadden is probably your backline’s greatest attacking threat, it probably is time to stick it up your jumper.

    Also, Leinster aren’t the first team to arrive up in Galway on a horrible night and get rolled by a hungry Connacht team and certainly won’t be the last. Connacht deserve more credit than they’re getting even though on paper Leinster should be winning those matches. It was apparent they wanted it so much more than Leinster.

    I believe there’s a supporter bias whereby supporters allocate a greater level of responsibility to a coach than the coach deserves. He’s not there with a Playstation controller moving the lads around the pitch. Leinster were essentially “out-desired” by Connacht on the night and perhaps you need to question the motivation of a group of very successful players when it comes to pitching up in Galway on a wet Friday for a Rabo game.

    Finally, the scrum – wow. Haven’t seen Leinster get stuffed like that in a while.

    • Good point on ascribing too much blame to the coach (and maybe too much credit when things go well). Stats on the Connacht site have the home side making 72 carries for 459 metres; Leinster making 138 carries for 471 metres. If the coach puts out the best pack available, which is a couple of kilos a man heavier than the opposition’s, and they get done in contact that badly, who should carry the can?

  11. I was thinking about this while watching the All Ireland (yes, I know roundy-ball boo hiss etc) & you’re seeing a trend across a lot of team sports towards the less attractive and more physical styles of play – parking the bus, the system etc. I think there’s such a huge emphasis on strength & conditioning now and such a huge amount of money in most sports, compared to what their predecessors would have been dealing with (even that bastion of amateurism the GAA) that winning ugly has been a natural progression. This doesn’t mean there still isn’t space for Stringer to score tries against Leicester for example but I think we’re seeing it everywhere, in particular in rugby where it does feel that we’re sometimes watching a collision sport, not a contact one and the backs are often as big as the forwards. A spark of magic is being squeezed out a bit.

    That said, I don’t want to go to all George Hook on it on the nostalgia front as I sat through plenty of dire rugby throughout my childhood & adolescence and perhaps there is an argument that between Munster (who often don’t get enough credit for their back line as well as the pack) & Leinster’s successes as well as two 6 Nations in less than 5 years, maybe we’re just a bit spoilt. One of the best things about rugby as a sport is that there’s so much to enjoy. The tries are great, and who doesn’t enjoy an electric back line move but I love a well executed rolling maul, a last – ditch tackle, a well-thrown ball to the tail of the line out etc etc. That’s still entertainment.

    • Great post Kate, rugby has wonderful depth of pleasures for sure, but as you say so eloquently it would be a tragedy if the ‘spark of magic’ was snuffed out irretrievably. Even if you look at the sport as little as eight years ago it looked totally different. The players have certainly become more homogenous, and it seems harder than ever for smaller players to live with the collision aspect.

      • I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about this before, cos I do tend to go on, but I have serious concerns regarding the ever-increasing size of young players and the corresponding injury problems, both in terms of collisions but also regarding rehab. There’s incredible pressure being put on the basic skeletal structure, plus ligaments & tendons etc as they can’t be developed in the same way as muscle. Can’t see there being too many more with careers the length of Big Bad Brad, or O’Driscoll and worry about the short & long-term health implications & the fact they take up so much space in Juniors.

        • Spikes

           /  September 22, 2014

          I agree with you. 25 years ago, I felt I was in a minority who lifted weights seriously to compete. Watching my nephews now, I’m alarmed at what teenage bodies are being put through, the culture of often useless or dangerous supplements, and the frequency of serious injuries. Beyond the effect on the game as a spectacle and the length of careers, the long term health effects are concerning. A couple of interesting related articles this weekend from Neil Francis and Paul Kimmage.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 22, 2014

            Kimmage and Francis are morons who dont know what they are talking about.

        • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

           /  September 22, 2014

          “…worry about the short & long-term health implications & the fact they take up so much space in Juniors”. 10/10 for the ending Kate!! A little humour goes such a long way 🙂

        • Leinsterlion

           /  September 22, 2014

          @Whiff, thats all down to coaching, you can make a quick skillful small guy powerful, but its a lot harder to make a big guy quick and skillful. The collision aspect is all down to conditioning and genetics, you can handle it or you cant, being 14 or 18 stone is no different if you are not , for lack of a better word,”hard”.

          @Kate Nonsense, once you begin (the right kind obv)weight training at an early age your tendons and skeleton can handle the mass and force generated by the muscle you create, the problems only occur when people have a low training age and their body cant handle the mass/power they have added.
          Look at League and NFL both have been professional size/power/speed games for the past thirty years, and there are players with long 15+ year careers, your concerns are baseless.

          Too much hand wringing and rose tinted glasses.

          • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

             /  September 22, 2014

            Are you really referencing the NFL to assuage fears about the long term health implications of big hits?

          • aoifehamill

             /  September 22, 2014

            Hmmm… Any thoughts on lots of Leinster players getting hip injuries, having to get surgery etc? And these are just the high profile players we know about.

            You can’t deny that young players are much more beefcaked than they use to be. Not all necessarily a bad thing but I’m not keen on a push towards all kids who want to play rugby feeling they have to have this body shape.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 22, 2014

            @aoifehamill size does not(directly) equal power, which in any case size is overrated, as its all about how quickly you can deliver the power, otherwise powerlifters(see really big fat guys) would dominate. Im not going to go into detail about it, basically you could be 90odd kg but if you can deliver your power quicker then a bigger player you can avoid the collision or instigate it and win. Hence you see guys in the nfl who are small yet capable of knocking over way bigger guys.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Wvh1BS3KJg for example. As for injury proneness,outside of freak accidents, its down to genetics and not starting training early enough and/or doing the wrong type of training.Eg; Luke Fitz, I would put down to playing and training before his body was developed to a sufficient degree, not talking about size, just that “muscle maturity” that only comes with time spent training.

            @Hairy Naomh Mhuire unavoidable concussions aside, its not an issue.

          • col

             /  September 22, 2014

            i dont know how anyone could deny the alarming changes in rugby over the last 10 years. i agree that the increase in the money at stake has placed a greater emphasis on preventing loss in games as opposed to trying to achieve a win. as kate says this is similar in many sports but the effects on players in rugby are far more pronounced and there is no doubt that the long term health risks of playing professional rugby must now be a concern. watching the lions tests in 2003 now is like watching a different sport and if it keeps going that way i seriously worry about what we will be seeing in 2023 when the rwc is here (hopefully!).

          • As well as being quite rude, (let’s at least keep the below the line discourse civil), you’re making pretty big assumption that everyone is always going to be doing the right training from the right age. This is definitely not always the case, as you point out in a later post

            It’s not just about long careers, it’s about a quality of life based on physical after the game. Many NFL players don’t have that. And I completely disagree that my concerns are baseless given more players are being injured out of the game at a young age.

            This is a great community to discuss all aspects of rugby, you’re opinionated, that’s grand. But please don’t tell me what I should & shouldn’t bother caring about in a frankly impolite manner.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 22, 2014

            Sorry I didnt mean to come across as rude, merely brusque, or to the point, possibly dismissive. Like George Hook on his concussion crusade(endlessly harping on about Drico and his wellbeing, the entire Pro12 preshow taken up with his waffle), you are speaking from a position of ignorance(not as utterly off the point as Hook).
            Training hard, doing the right things, eating right, looking after your body and barring any freak accidents you should be fine, that applies to the every sport, to the AIL(where pro rugby is mimic’d to a large degree) to the GAA and pro rugby players. Its a contact sport, bringing in rolling subs, concussion protocalls enhance debate, player size doesnt.

            If you, as a parent, put a kid out doing any sport, its up to you(and by extension their coaches and the IRFU(weightrooms and S&C coachs for every school/club)) to ensure they are all on a level playing field. Harping on about “players getting too big” or “It not a game for every shape and size” etc is a joke, there are levels for every player, be it J1, schools, AIL. Championship or the fully pro leagues, and the S&C remit goes up at every level, its not an issue, or rather, its unavoidable, the chicken has flown the coop, there is literally no debate to be had. Aside from, how can we get it into Irish mammies heads that weights and creatine will not harm their fat little pudding of a son.

            .
            @col, there is a max output the players will reach, the standard, while it will always be quicker and harder, will not have evolved to unrecognisable levels, look at NFL(linemen aside) and league for the direction we are heading, physically at least.

          • Leinsterlion – Kate’s point was about the aesthetics of rugby just as much as the safety. The chicken has flown the coop you say, and you’re right, it has, but it’s important to take stock and assess. Are we all the better for it? Or has something been lost? Rugby league is boring because it’s 26 homogenous players crashing in to each other. Is rugby in danger of going down this road? It would be a crying shame if the game no longer had room for the next incarnation of Shane Williams or Cristophe Dominici.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  September 23, 2014

            So long as a future Dominici or Williams or even a Gio aplon has the requisite agility and speed to offset their size disadvantage they have place in the game, as for League being homogenous, nearly right, but the likes of Billy slater and Sam Tomkins show the value of being able to ghost through defences with a twitch of the hips, and as Mike below alluded too, the NFL is full of “little ‘uns that could” .
            The way I see it, there will always be the Eastmonds, all fancy quick feet and the Nonu-bosh merchants, athleticism, size and speed will not go up exponentially, as it has done (starting from a very low non-professional base) until now, it cant. Unless the set piece is removed we will never get homogenity like league or even closer to home, 7’s.

            As for something being lost, I would argue attacking coaching has declined as defence coaching has improved out of sight, as seen by MOC coming in and instructing Leinster to play towards an end goal I cannot recognise in attack, yet I can easily spot their defensive improvements and linespeed.

            The Aesthetics argument is fine, but pointless, what are you pining for 12st backs in baggy jerseys? Where do you stop?

    • Mike

       /  September 23, 2014

      Kate, its not the spark of magic that is missing – the attacking play is as good as it ever was if not better. There is just less crap one on one tacking and team defence is light years ahead of where it was even 10 years ago. The players are fitter meaning we don’t get as many teams running out of gas in the last 10. In short, it went all professional.

      Even if it was true, bulk isn’t the reason for it. Generally speaking the bigger players are able to break a tackle and create the line break. Its also more more likely they are going to run out of steam at some point. Rugby is about trying to create mismatches – whether it is a speedy guy against a heavy guy in space or vice versa.

      I’m also not sure its right to say that there is a trend towards the more physical across other sports. As LL points out its not true in the NFL – (Barry Sanders ended any debate about size 25 years ago) the Seahawks (current champs in case you aren’t a fan) are a relatively small team. They are just super quick and well drilled. Soccerball has also gone away from the big man in both defence and attack. No more Quinn and Cascarino – its all about tiki taka and speedy guys. Even the GAA has moved away a bit from the likes of the 2003 final towards the likes of the Donegal team from a couple of seasons ago*.

      * I know feck all squared about GAA.

  12. Yossarian

     /  September 22, 2014

    Under MOC there is a style of play that is pragmatic and with the best pack in the competition will win you a rabo. Irish success in Europe(munster win aside) generally came about by having the better nous against bigger English and French packs. We haven’t seen anything that suggests a style of play capable of winning when there isn’t the forward dominance Leinster enjoy in rabo competition.
    MOC has a 10 to employ a game style which invovles a lot of kicking, this doesn’t sit well with Leinster(or pretty much any of the Irish provinces) and is a somewhat redundant style. Couple the fact Reddan/Boss/Gopperth aren’t even executing this kicking game well you see why Leinster fans are frustrated.

    • Au contraire, I’d suggest a certain southern province would be more than comfortable with a forwards-based kicking for territory game. Joking aside, no-one in Ireland complained when we won the Grand Slam playing puke rugby (let alone us) – to suggest its somehow “not who we are” needs more evidence.

      Also, the team who kicked most last year? BNZ – Andy McGeady did a piece on it I think. Hardly makes it redundant .. IF its executed properly – which is something Leinster aren’t doing right now.

      • I’ve written about this exact subject quite a bit, and it’s the thing that annoys me most. It’s this thing that Leinster play all singing all dancing rugby and even if we win playing a slightly less colourful brand, it’s a failure.

        Most of these ‘fans’ have been calling for our coach’s head since he began, using the likes of Madigan and now Luke McGrath as martyrs, yet seem to conveniently forget neither of these guys have shown anything like the mesmerising form that they’ve claimed.

        We should play to our strengths, at the moment, that’s a pack to match any global club team on its day.

        • Yossarian

           /  September 22, 2014

          See it is execution i have the issue with as well. Ireland kicked a lot in last years six nations and we didn’t complain but when it is done badly it is nauseating. Using guys like Luke McGrath or demonising Fanning is the soft option. I think fans would prefer running rugby over bad kicking but accept kicking if it leads to winning(if that makes sense!)

    • Chogan (@Cillian_Hogan)

       /  September 22, 2014

      Nailed it.

      • There’s also the issue that kicking for territory/down the neck of Leader was the right strategy even if it didn’t lead to points – Connacht’s defence were immense on Friday. Even though there were a couple of Leinster line breaks, it must have become more and more obvious to Heaslip et al that none of the backs were just going to waltz through and score from 60m.

  13. The single biggest problem with Social meeja is the knee jerk reaction of folk. They blurt out before using their brains or re-watching a match. The whole MOCout stuff was just plain stupid!

    So I hope having had a few days to think about things I can articulate my concerns in a reasonable way!!

    MOC is struggling to give the team an identity post Schmidt. Hark back to the leaked Schmidt mantra of “wanting to be the best passing team” – whatever else about St. Joseph that single mission statement gave everyone clarity about what was expected of them. Focus on skills, focus on perfect execution and the rest will come.

    Cheika also had it with his remove the ladyboys tagline.

    I don’t see that with MOC and that for me, is where the problem lies. He’s been asked to keep a ship steady rather than imprint his philosophy on the team and that’s just a recipe for disaster. He can’t out Joe, Joe, and he now doesn’t even have the squad to attempt it.

    Any new Head in any organisation has to be given the scope and empowerment to change things as they see fit. Whilst I’m sure MOC was told that explicitly, implicitly he probably felt an obligation to continue with Joe’s direction, not set one of his own.

    And now Leinster are suffering as a consequence. No discernible game plan, no long term strategy to focus the players efforts on. All of these lead to confusion, degradation of skills, abdication of responsibility, etc. and they manifest themselves in performances like Friday night.

    Connacht were simply better at executing the basics of the game on Friday – they rucked stronger, tackled better, ran harder, scrummed more effectively and ultimately got exactly what they deserved. Well done Connacht.

    If Leinster is going to play a forwards dominated game, then come out and bloody well say it. Give the players that expectation, give the fans that expectation and then focus all efforts on delivering on that strategy. This garbled approach is what is most jarring to fans.

    Obviously the ideal is that we play like we did Vs Bath a few yrs ago and blitz everyone in a half hour of exhilarating rugby but, accepting we can’t do that with the squad we have, let’s concentrate on maximising our strengths and minimising our weaknesses.

    In short, let’s become Munster…

    🙂

    • That’s an excellent post Rob. Fundamentally, you are asking “what is MOC there for“.

      • Exactly!
        If he was, and I suspect this is the case, asked to continue doing what we’re doing, then he’s been given his own noose in effect.

        Either that, or he doesn’t have the confidence or conviction to imprint his own strategy on the team.

        He’s in a no-win situation until he tells all and sundry what his grand vision is. He’s the leader of this team and has to show leadership so he can be measured against that. At the moment he’s being measured against St. Joseph which is unfair.

    • Brilliant post.

      • I wonder is that part & parcel of inheriting such a successful team. Obviously you can constantly strive to be the best a la BNZ but is it harder to find a cornerstone to build your reign around?

        • If that’s a negative thing i.e. we need to win to be better than X, or we need to win otherwise everyone will think they are chokers, that’s fine.

          It just needs to be something. When Leinster are playing like drains, and winning, it kind of precludes a convincing rallying point in a way!

          • It’s quite divisive for your supporter base as well. They tend to split into “A win’s a win” camp vs “this is the death of everything I’ve ever loved” crowd

    • Sound Steve

       /  September 22, 2014

      I dunno. There seems to be a lot of second guessing here. I’m not convinced the “best passing team in Europe” thing was so much a philosophy as a quote that people leapt upon. The reality is that no one knows about clarity of a philosophy/gameplan unless you’re in the squad.

      I’d firmly be of the belief that the coach is under no obligation to sate the fans with soundbites and a coach not publicly declaring a gameplan doesn’t mean there isn’t one. In my eyes, it’s not so much the game plan as the execution that’s the issue. The kicking was poor, not helped by the conditions on Friday, which make it extremely hard to gain any territory, especially against a disciplined, solid defence.

  14. D6W

     /  September 22, 2014

    78 minutes gone, and there was a break in the play. Muldoon (who was immense, did Leinster snag the wrong 2nd row?) is shown surrounded by his forwards, giving them a rousing pep talk. Camera zooms to Heaslip who is standing hands on hips, looking around him, not talking to anyone.

    The difference on Friday was leadership on the pitch, with Connacht knowing what they were trying to do and doing it, while Leinster were aimless. When what they were doing was not working, they did not try anything else. And in those last few minutes we could have won it, but we panicked and gave Gopperth ball too soon, who hesitated. A more disciplined and better led and coached team would have won it. And unjustly so, I might add, as Connacht were the better side.

    • ScewMadd

       /  September 23, 2014

      Given the Mul is a flanker, I can’t imagine him getting in Leinster’s second row ahead of Dev, Douglas or even his old friend Macca 😉

  15. Hairy Naomh Mhuire

     /  September 22, 2014

    It has been commented upon earlier that MO’C is not making himself sufficiently clear as regards how he wants his team to play. Fair enough but in one critical area he has spoken & maybe we have not listened. Madigan will not be his go to number 10. Two MO’C quotes about Madigan mined from recent posts here:
    (1)“He has some growth areas in his game that he is well aware of. The fact that he can play in a number of positions and is a great goal-kicker makes him extremely valuable to the squad. “From our end, we wouldn’t want him to be going anywhere but he has got to make that call. If he thinks he is a first-choice ten and capable of doing that then he will have a decision to make.”
    (2) ‘ He needs to develop into the bloke who manages a game’.
    Unless I’m missing something the message from MO’C is clear. Madigan is a utility back. He is not ‘a first-choice ten’. Sunnier climes could be a-beckoning..

    • I’d have to take issue with you on that. Neither of Limerick and Galway are sunnier than Dublin.

      Joking asides, regardless of what provincial team he plays for he’s behind the world’s best flyhalf (now that Carter is on the wane) for the Ireland team. MOC and Jimmy Gopperth have diddly squat to do with that. If he wants to be on the Irish starting XV between now and 2019 he needs to play a different position.

  16. Daniel

     /  September 23, 2014

    What gameplan does Gopperth exectue? He cannot pass off his left. He frequently ignores runners. He slows down the backs. He does that ridiculous one trick dummy and step several times during every game.

    It is nonsense to suggest that any other 10 in the Leinster squad cannot do the above. MOC decided after Munster away last year that Madigan was not for him. This was unfair on the player as the pack were very very poor that day.

    Jimmy Gopperth first choice for Leinster? Someone is having a laugh somewhere. Awful player.

  17. clancystephen

     /  September 23, 2014

    Does anyone on here really think MOC is losing sleep about the standard of dross he is producing at the moment? Think about it ……. He is one year down with a Pro 12 pot in the arse pocket will potentially get a second and should reach knock out stages of the real Cup. After which time his cv will have been bolstered by 2 ‘successful’ years at the helm of Europe’s marquee team. He has made the leap from assistant to head coach and when he is doing interviews in April for the head coaching job in Mitsubishi Tigers or Makita Shoguns he will hardly be asked or care for that matter about how much he did or didn’t kick the ball. And his interviewers are hardly going to quiz him about not picking Madigan at 10.

  18. curates_egg

     /  September 23, 2014

    While we undoubtedly have a much weaker backline, I would argue we have a stronger squad of forwards than we ever did under Joe. However, we have also regressed in some of the basic elements of our forward play (particularly the scrum and maul so far this season).

    I would say the number one legitimate concern a lot of fans have is the regression across a number of basic parts of our game, which has been evident over the past 12 months, be it the scrums and mauls, passing or other areas, we have gone backwards. Defence is the only area where you could argue there has been an improvement (towards the latter half of last season).

    This regression, combined with the very limited gameplan (and inability to change it) we seem to have (particularly but not only away from home), is unsettling to see. There is no doubt that at least a good chunk of the responsibility for this has to lie with the coach.

    I would say most concerned/sceptical fans that are serious fans don’t buy into MOCout stuff. Apart from the fact he just won the league (and topped the table), he has 2 years left on his contract and it is far from clear who else we might be able to get. However, that shouldn’t mean we should just ignore the regression we are witnessing.

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