Back to Black

Munster’s late, and largely irrelevant, bonus point wrapped up what was a pretty horrific set of double headers from the Irish provinces in the ERCC. Munster lost 8-2 in match points, gave up their first home loss to a French opponent and were thoroughly outclassed by (the admittedly brilliant) Clermont Auvergne. With a bit more concentration yesterday, Clermont could have won the double header 9-1, and that would not have been an outcome which any Irish fan could have seriously queried. The late bonus point does at least have them feeling a bit better about themselves, and they will need to be feeling good to win in Globo Gym. Leinster broke even, 5-5, but are behind Quins on the tie-breaker (match points this year) and in the table. Ulster won their double header 5-4, but, since their faint hopes required 9 points, the fact they lost one of the games is the relevant point.  When future generations are asked if they know their Clive Ross from their Bronson Ross, they’ll look quizically at you and say ‘What are you talking about?’.

By our reckoning, the last time two of the three major Irish provinces lost their double headers was 15 years ago, the year after Ulster won what was then the European Cup – Leinster won and lost to Stade but were behind on both tie-breakers (bonus points hadn’t been invented yet), Ulster lost twice to Llanelli (not the Scarlets – they are completely different, obviously) and Munster saved Irish bacon by beating Colomiers twice. The Liginds were European newbies at that stage, and the ensuing tear-soaked journey to the final went quite a way to kindling the love affair with Europe.

We find it hard to envisage an Irish side making this year’s final though – they simply look too far off the French teams, and a home quarter-final is odds-against in both cases. In fact, for all the crowing from Bruce Craig et al about increased competitiveness, and following the pattern of recent seasons, most of the quarter-final places have been more or less decided – with Munster/Saracens the only serious question mark, unless Glasgow can secure a rare win on English turf.

Pool 1: Clermont are home and hosed – two more wins takes them to 22 points, and another point is a possiblity. The runners-up slot will be decided at Allianz Park in the next round, when Munster bring real fans to drown out the PA system. Saracens put a bonus point on Clermont in Round 1, have only lost to the Saints at home this year, and beat a Munster side superior to this current edition two seasons ago – it’s a big stretch to call this for Munster right now, and we can’t get there. We reckon Saracens to finish second on 17 points. If Munster do make it, they’ll likely have 18/19 points.

Pool 2: Quins have a home game against Wasps and visit patsies Castres in the last round – 8 points is virtually a given, with 9 a possibility – that takes them to 21/22. Leinster should just about be able for Castres, but might struggle with Wasps’ gargantuan pack – they’ll need to lose that one 5-0 in match points to go out, which is pretty unlikely, but we wouldn’t fancy them to win if that game was today. Leinster to finish second with 19 points.

Pool 3: Toulon will win both games, and probably score four tries against Ulster – that brings them to 22. A likely home win each for Leicester and Ulster won’t be enough to get them into the mix for the quarters, but Leicester to finish second on 14 for what it’s worth.

Pool 4: Toulouse are the only team to date with a 100% record, and look likely to finish the pool stages that way, with games against the Sam Burgess XV and Montpellier, who have thrown in the towel in hapless and hilarious fashion. Glasgow have a home game to feed off Montpellier’s rotting corpse, after which they go to Bath, where a win will be needed to be in the qualification mix. It’s an intriguing match-up, with Bath most likely out of the qualification picture by then, but it’s a big ask for Glasgae to win in the Rec. So we think Glasgae will finish second on 16.

Pool 5: Racing Metro will go to the Saints in the last round, and if Northampton don’t beat Ospreys away in round 5, a losing bonus point will suffice to top the pool on 20, with Saints losing the tie-breaker and finishing second on 20. Spare a thought for the Hairsprays, who could finish 3rd on 17 points, which might be enough to qualify from other pools (helped by Treviso).  If Northampton can beat the Ospreys, and beat Racing Metro, they’ll top the group.  Either way, both look good to progress.

That would leave us with:

  1. Toulouse 24
  2. Clermont 22/23
  3. Toulon 22
  4. Quins 21/22
  5. Racing Metro 20
  6. Saints 20
  7. Leinster 19
  8. Saracens 17/18

A win for Glasgow in Bath would push them up to 19 and would create an every-point-counts finale between themselves, Leinster and the winner of Saracens and Munster.

If there is a silver lining to be had, it’s provided by Connacht, who sent a fully reserve team to France and won.  Okay, it was only Bayonne, where the ham comes from, and it was only the Challenged Cup, but still.  They’ll hit the interpros with more feelgood than any of the other provinces.  They look the best coached of the four at the moment, by a mile.  Their next opponent: Leinster.  Great.

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85 Comments

  1. The last two rounds of matches in the Champions Cup have proved the the Guinness Pro 12 sides do not have the finance or squads to compete consistently against the English and French teams.

    It could be argued that the three Irish provinces in the Champions Cup plus the Ospreys were impacted by the number of players out injured.

    Nonetheless I expect some of the English and French teams will sign marquee players from the Southern Hemisphere post the 2015 World Cup to further strengthen their squads.

    • SportingBench

       /  December 15, 2014

      Think it is too early to write off the Pro12 in such a systematic way. Any changes to European competition quite simply haven’t had long enough to take effect yet so the question is why is the Pro12 doing badly this year in comparison to others and that is a mix of circumstance.
      Leinster are on the downward slope after dominating for a few years. Regardless of anything else (coaching) the golden team of a few years back was always likely to fade away in the manner of many other champions without serious and conscious rebuilding (which is a gutsy and unusual thing to do to a champion team. Munster are in the middle of re-building and if anything this season casts doubt on not retaining Penny as the architect. Ulster are at the start of a rebuilding phase which most people acknowledge at the start of the season. Ospreys are rebuilding nicely but too thin yet to compete and Glasgow are taking their first tentative steps to European competitiveness after a steady improvement over the course of a few Pro12 seasons to become silverware challengers. Europe is something that appears to take most teams a few seasons to learn.
      The best teams in the Pro12 are just not in a situation to mount a serious challenge this season but that is different than the Pro12 fundamentally being uncompetitive and the ability of the Irish sides in the very recent past to win and be competitive does not suggest they can’t compete. English based marketing and Toulon’s financial muscle suggest otherwise but let’s look for longer term trends before writing everything off.

      • ” if anything this season casts doubt on not retaining Penny as the architect. ”

        SportingBench, I respectfully disagree. We’re top of the Pro 12 at the moment and we lost in Europe twice to far superior opposition and got the losing bonus point both times. Love Foley or hate him, we wouldn’t be any better off right now with Penney instead.

        • I think he was suggesting though that Penney would be better equipped to re build a team , and have more experience in doing so.

    • Alarm bells would have rung a lot quicker for Leinster if they didn’t compete in such a joke of a league. They won the thing last year after one good performance (the final).

      • D6W

         /  December 15, 2014

        I don’t think you can call Pro12 a joke of a league based on this seasons showing in ERCC. It has provided semi-finalists throughout the years, and a number of winners in Munster and Leinster. It goes in phases, the english league was doing pretty poorly in ERCC up to last season (Saracens aside). It is too early to declare a permanent downward trend.

  2. Lop12

     /  December 15, 2014

    Giving Wasps no chance against Quins? Last three seasons Quins at home to Wasps in the premiership ended
    26-23
    11-10
    16-17

    Wasps are much better this season (and Quins worse!). I think Wasps are still bang in that pool. Two wins takes them to 20 as pool winners.

    • Yeah, I just can’t see Wasps turning them over in that game. Quins look pretty doughty and already beat them away; heavy favourites to win at home, even though their league form is pretty rank.

      • Lop12

         /  December 15, 2014

        Wouldnt be as convinced myself. They need Evans and Robshaw back but dont think Wasps will have any fear whatsoever of the fixture. Been quite impressed with Wasps the few times iv seen them this season (off a low base of expectation).

        Iv seen Quins 5 times, incl the Leinster back to back and they have been woeful to average by and large. Small bit of impetus injected into their season now though.

        • Well, I hope you’re right Lop, because it would be to Leinster’s benefit.

          • Ciaran

             /  December 15, 2014

            Maybe not to Leinster’s benefit. A loss in Coventry (to a Wasps team with something to play for) could put Leinster third, potentially with 19 points too!

  3. ruckinhell

     /  December 15, 2014

    While obviously disappointing that Munster lost the head to head against Clermont, it’s clear that Clermont and Toulon are head and shoulders above the rest of the European pack at the moment. I think there’s a group of potentials behind them who could catch them on a good day and beat them but would lose the majority of games- Racing, Northampton, Saracens, Munster and, with a proper coach and direction, Leinster.

    Munster put in a much more varied performance and there were some positives to take out of the game (JJ at 12, more variety in attack) but in truth we were haunted to get anything out of that game. Fritz Lee went from tormentor to saviour in the space of a week, his botched handling on the line and ill discipline gave us a bonus point. Not sure how you can say the losing bonus point is irrelevant, you take any and all points that are on offer as you have no idea how it might impact upon you later in the final round. If we beat Saracens away (which is doable I think, they have not been the force of old and looked vulnerable at times against Sale both home and away) then that losing bonus point might be the difference between an away QF in Quins instead of a trip to Toulon or the Midi. It doesn’t compensate for the loss but I’d rather have it in the bag than not.

    • I don’t think it’s going to be very important. Beat Saracens, and Munster are going through; lose and they’re out. Getting Quins in the quarter-final is possible, but only as a result of what happens in the top four because Metro or Saints are going to be the highest placed runners-up so Munster will be either 7th or 8th. It could go some way to determining who they play against, but it’s not a factor in the grand scheme of qualification.

  4. IMO Leinster haven’t just got a coaching problem, but a leadership one on the pitch. MO’C could have ameliorated the loss of BO’D and Leo had he gone down the road of having Madigan as his number one outhalf with Gopperth as back up. By doing that, Madigan’s undoubteded leadership qualities could have been further honed and his “game management” failings resolved. Unfortunately this was not the path pursued. The most striking and disappointing aspect of our matches thus far this season – good examples being against Glasgow – in which Church and the Tank both played – and against Connacht in the Sportsground was the lack of leadership. When the going gets tough, you need at least one guy, who’s going to seriously knock heads – and I just don’t mean that metaphorically – on his own team as well as the opposition’s. Jamie Heaslip is not the person to do that. He is undoubtedly a fabulous player, but he’s not a captain. To me Heaslip is forever playing the starring role in “The Jamie Heaslip Movie” and is singularly focussed on his own thing. Maybe that’s what he needs to do in order to be such a good player, but for a captain it’s a no-no. One episode some it up for me on Saturday, and I’m not talking about him arriving in Lansdowne with his headphones on – again. No, in BT coverage before kick-off they showed us Heaslip doing some stretching exercises on the touchline. All of a sudden he realises the pre-match huddle has already formed and he runs over to it – arriving late. As captain he should have been the first one there. Such behaviour is detrimental to a team. If there were any other leaders in the 22 he should have been effin ripped out of it for such carry on. Quins forwards bullied our pack in both matches and got away with it – and then to have Heaslip complain to the media that they were playing on or over the edge of legality… What planet is he on? Or has he caught the whinging bug from his coach? During the coverage of the Toulon v Leicester match there was a big discussion about a team’s and particularly the pack’s need of at least one “enforcer”, the guy who won’t back down, no matter what happens, who’ll dish out the dirt, take and the citings too, if necessary. It’s the attitude of BO’D’s “bring it on!” to Victor Matfield I’m talking about. Leinster are in dire need of a Nathan Hines, Leo Cullen or a Brad Thorn type figure. Maybe when Jenno gets back, things will improve, but I’m not optimistic.

    • SportingBench

       /  December 15, 2014

      I think your are spot on there. Leadership comes in many forms but it appears to me that it is missing somewhat in the current Leinster team. And as you point out, isent that surprising given the departures – so is something the management should have looked to resolve and Heaslip has many, many strengths but leadership isn’t one of the them.

      • Ah come on! He’s been our most consistent performer. How often do you hear about squad players stating that their captain doesn’t say much, but in their actions they can see whats required? If the rest of the Leinster team showed the heart Heaslip has been showing this season we’d be in a better state I reckon.

        Maybe more leadership is required across the team, but blaming Heaslip for the lack of it is daft. Kearney should maybe step up, and I would certainly agree that we’re lacking aggression on the front five. Douglas looks like he should fit the bill, but I remain unconvinced.

        • SportingBench

           /  December 15, 2014

          Heaslip is a very, very good player and shouldn’t be criticised for what he isn’t rather than praised for what he is. However leadership is not just about the captain and comes in many forms and as Riocard said, the number of leaders who have departed Leinster means you need a number of replacements. Riocard also makes a good point about Madigan’s temperament and that he could have been / could be developed into the sort of leader that Leinster current lack. Heaslip is almost incidental to this general leadership discussion and as mentioned, Kearney is also a very good player with many attributes but again one that doesn’t seem to display leadership particularly when the chips are down. Conversely someone like Cullen may not have had a great all round game but was clearly vital to Leinster for the leadership he brought. Leadership doesn’t have to be vocal or physical and as someone else mentions could come from having complete faith in the management team but if it is missing it is as big a gap for a top level as any other attribute.

          • SportingBench

             /  December 15, 2014

            And nor is leadership a measure of manliness or greatness by the way. It is just an attribute similar to passing and kicking

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 15, 2014

      Ah here, lets not start this leadership bullshit again. A pre match huddle means nothing, a captains primary responsibilities are tactical and dealing with the ref. Talking about pre match huddle (as if it has any bearing on Heaslip or the match) is nonsense.
      If you are going to criticise Heaslip, pick up on his utterly UN(or should it be “non”)-destructive carrying and tackling. Its great having a Heaslip-soft hands-esque 8, but when your team is struggling like Leinster are, you really need a route one player,Heaslip has not stepped up to the plate in that regard. Also, his risible defence of the MOCalypse last week was vomit inducing, don’t treat the fans like they are a bunch of sponges from the arsehole of Ireland, we can see MOC is out of his depth and he product onfield is muck.
      TL;DR leadership is overrated, if Heaslip was playing well and not being a regime apparachick this criticism of his “leadership”(or lack of it) would not be happening.

      • Reducing my argument to criticising Heaslip for being late once to a huddle and describing it then as nonsense, is to miss the point, Leinsterlion. Where was his leadership while the match was going South in Galway? There they were all standing under the posts after Marmion’s try and not a geek out of him. Where was the bollocking to bring everyone to their senses? Leadership means you don’t just play your socks off in your own position, but that you take responsibility for those around you and help them to do the same too. Having you’re headphones on etc. is encapsulating yourself away from your environment and fellow players. As a captain you need to be taking care off business – your own and everybody else’s – 24/7. Why do you think the first thing Joe Schmidt as Ireland coach did was to give the captaincy from Heaslip to PO’C? I agree 100% with your criticism of Heaslip’s sticking up for MO’C. It contrasts with BO’D’s questioning of Kidney’s methods, which cost the former the captaincy of the national team – but he still did it!!! There’s the difference I talking about for you.

        • aoifehamill

           /  December 15, 2014

          I’m not for a second saying PO’C isn’t a good captain but I think giving him the captaincy was also a politically expedient move by Schmidt to get everyone on board and minimise talk of a Leinster bias. I certainly wouldn’t take it as an affront to Heaslip’s abilities.

          • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

             /  December 15, 2014

            Agree – but I would call it good man management rather than political expediency – i.e. more common sense that Machiavelli. A good contrast would be Gatland showing his limitations in going for the easy option for Lions captain (Warburton). PO’C would have brought better balance to the Lions set-up – aside from being a better leader.

        • Leinsterlion

           /  December 15, 2014

          Bollocking someone, Tony D’Amato rousing speeches are good and all, running someone the fuck over is better, a lot better. Gainline and front foot ball > leadership, workrate, heart and every other unquantifiable intangible that seems to be bandied about about in defense of Tom Croft rugby. Heaslip is not playing the hard brutal rugby that is required in a team shorn of carriers, you don’t raise your game because you nominal captain tells you to, you do it because he cuts people in half , and sets the tone with brutal carries, Heaslip isn’t doing that.

          • Not convinced on the Jamie Heaslip leadership issue. Was Heaslip not the man who dragged the team kicking and screaming through the first two rounds of the pool, when everyone else was injured and we’d a scratch team out? It seems to come up as an easy narrative any time he has a quiet game. There are lots of different types of leadership. BOD wsan’t one for shouting and roaring either, but he was a great leader. I’d think it’s safe to assume Heaslip has the respect of his teammates sufficiently to lead them.

          • Agree with WOC really – Heaslip is often the one standing up when you need someone to do it – last 10 minutes he’s always making big plays, always has the energy to carry. He is prob the fittest player Ireland and Leinster have. He was excellent against Australia and France in those tight last few minutes.

          • Have to agree with Whiff and Ronan here, I’ve been watching him closely and he has made some very hard yards and some breaks, he seemed to have realised he has to now that Church and tank are injured, in this respect he has stepped up as Captain, LL you haven’t been watching closely enough IMO.
            Anyone with yardage stats?

          • Leinsterlion

             /  December 16, 2014

            @labrecha1l, just to be clear I do think Heaslip is playing well in his “role”, I just dont think that is whats needed in our current gameplan. We need an 8 who can generate front foot ball a la Picamoles, turn shite(which with MOCs gameplan we have a lot of) into quick ball. Heaslip hasnt been doing that. Maybe Im holding him to too high a standard, but I think he can be a lot better. I dont have a clue what his stats are(I doubt they make for eye popping reading), but if memory serves a geriatric Easter has edged the double header, and I dont recall much in the way of Heaslip bouncing anyone… He defended in the wide channels and also got a good bit of ball and did nothing with either.. I dont know whether hes burned out from playing so much and is more of an endurance player than a fast twitch guy, but he hasnt shown the power game we need at this moment in time.

          • labrecha1

             /  December 16, 2014

            Fair enough but when has he ever been Picamoles? 2009? Not really he was running onto plays in wide channels more so then. He has a great all court game, I think perhaps you are expecting too much.

          • Leinsterlion

             /  December 16, 2014

            I’m just saying what we need him to do, which is generate quick ball through big carries, Picamoles is just an example. I could start laying into Rhys and Ryan, but they are the junior pack members imo, its on Heaslip, let the younger guys bring the mongrel and do the dog work, you get us front foot ball.

    • aoifehamill

       /  December 15, 2014

      Gah – players have all sorts of pre-match rituals/habits, drives me mad people giving out about Heaslip’s headphones! Madigan chews gum – lets have a bitch about that!

      There may be something in the leadership thing but really it looks to me like they’re not getting good leadership from their coach. You can slice it any way you want but Leinster are playing crap rugby and look completely unimaginative. It doesn’t have to be off the cuff but there’s no been no evidence of smart practised attacking plays. I know the quality of the team isn’t what it was with BOD, Nacewa etc gone but the players they have are better than the crap they’re turning out at the moment.

    • Stevo

       /  December 15, 2014

      I’m reminded of when England beat New Zealand in Wellington in the lead up to the 2003 World Cup. This result was crucial in giving the England team the belief that they could win the World Cup in the Southern Hemisphere, and was achieved despite having to defend a scrum on their own line with a six-man pack, both Lawrence Dallaglio and Neil Back having been sent to the sin-bin.

      When Martin Johnson was asked what he said to his players to inspire them at that moment he responded, “Do you expect me to have some Churchill-type speech in my pocket for such moments? I told them to bend over and push.”

      Real leadership is doing, not saying. I think it’s possible that Heaslip doesn’t communicate enough with his team, but to come out with crap like “starring in the Jamie Heaslip movie” is plain insulting to one of Leinster’s most consistent performers.

      • Possibly apochryphal but when asked what was going through his mind at that 6 man scrum Johnson supposedly answered “My spine”.

      • You’re more than entitled to criticise my choice of words, Stevo. I was however not criticising his performance as a player, which has been consistently top-class, but rather his leadership qualities. For me, and as I say, it’s just my subjective opinion from observing him on and off the pitch for years now, he is too self-engrossed for a good leader. It’s possible, I’m doing him a complete injustice and if so, I apologise.

  5. Spikes

     /  December 15, 2014

    Does anyone have an idea what’s up with McGrath? Not long ago he was being touted as a better scrummager than Healy, but he’s been barely surviving in Autumn internationals and more concerningly the Pro12 and European Cup too. I seem to remember Quins scrum being mullered in the Aviva recently as well. Is he carrying an injury or just flogged from constant work? The scrum was an issue for Munster and Ulster as well – most surprisingly in Ulster’s case. Is Deccie Fitz that bad?

    • aoifehamill

       /  December 15, 2014

      I don’t know for sure about McGrath but I suspect it’s just because he’s played a million games in a row – he looked wrecked on Saturday.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 15, 2014

      The curse of coffee shop Capuato……..

      maybe.

    • He’s been carrying an arm injury since at least October. Anyway, George Hook wrote him off in his last column so you can expect him to be Leinster’s best player for the remainder of the season.

      • Jaybee985

         /  December 15, 2014

        Not just McGrath. I thought Ross, Cronin and McGrath all looked spent with 15min left on Saturday night

        • red*razors

           /  December 16, 2014

          seconded. i was taken aback by how completely knackered they all appeared to be.

    • Daveoirl

       /  December 15, 2014

      Also isn’t helped by Cronin and his lack of actually hooking the ball. The sooner Strauss is back the better to be honest. Cronin needs to revert to his bench impact role for a while I think.

    • I think McGrath has had a much heavier workload than would have been bargained for in Healy’s absence. Chap looks exhausted.

  6. @LeinsterPAGuy

     /  December 15, 2014

    Sitting through that shit on Saturday was one of the worst things in rugby I’ve ever had to do.
    And for MOC to then come out and say ” It was very, very intense and a high quality game”. That was the last thing Sunday’s hangover needed.
    FFS he used “very” twice. Who does he think he’s kidding?
    Sad to say it but I hate watching Leinster this season.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 15, 2014

      Work all week, fork out thirty odd quid for a ticket and to then be presented with that abortion of a performance served up as caviar by Comical Ali er..MOC….He forgets we are at the game by choice and have eyes and a functioning frontal lobe.

      • Mary Hinge

         /  December 15, 2014

        Am very much looking forward to seeing Connacht play this Leinster team next Friday night. If we can get some kind of parity up front on the night, then I reckon we might pull off what would be a huge shock. Normally I’d be car-crash worried about Rodney coping with McGrath (or even Bent) at 3, but on current form…………………..I also hope Roux plays, so you can see how Pat Lam has developed his play since coming West on loan, and I hope Aki and Henshaw click in the centre and carve opportunities for our back three.

        • aoifehamill

           /  December 15, 2014

          I don’t think it would be a huge shock at all. I’m afraid Connacht don’t get the plucky underdog status these days!

        • Roundy

           /  December 15, 2014

          As a Leinster season ticket holder I will be supporting the home team but I am goin to the game on Friday to mainly watch Connacht as they are the form Irish team at the moment. I fear for us, I really do. Pat Lam has one goal this season and it is to finish in the qualification places for next seasons Champions Cup. To do that they will have to finish above one of the other provinces. As it stands that is Leinster, if the beat us this Friday they go above us in the table. Who is to say they wont remain ahead of us? If Leinster dont qualify for next seasons Champions Cup what will the fall off be in gate receipts? How will that affect our ability to retain (never mind attract new) players? This is getting serious.

          • It sure is. We are in danger of becoming the Liverpool FC of European rugby, with our glory days for ever behind us…..

          • Mary Hinge

             /  December 15, 2014

            Agree Roundy that Pat Lam’s goal is to make top 6 this year and qualify for next year’s HEC, but he doesn’t have to finish above Leinster (or any other Irish province) to do that. 7 guaranteed qualifiers from the Pro12 with at least one from Wales, Scotland, and Italy means all 4 provinces can qualify on merit from the finishing positions in this year’s Pro12.

        • D6W

           /  December 15, 2014

          I’m looking forward to it as well. At last Leinster fans will get to see a Irish province play good and committed rugby at the RDS.

        • Stephen

           /  December 15, 2014

          Mary – do you reckon Aki will be at 12, Henshaw 13, or vice versa?

          • Mary Hinge

             /  December 15, 2014

            I’d expect Aki at 12 and Henshaw at 13, with Poolman and Healy on the wings and Muliaina at FB.

  7. If we had Nathan White then I’d be confident of eating Leinster’s scrum alive. Denis Buckley has been the best scrummaging LH in Ireland by a country mile this season

  8. Billy

     /  December 15, 2014

    A couple of observations on Leinster

    Jack McGrath. While a statto’s wet dream (17 tackles vs SA becoming one of the most oft-quoted stats of recent times), simply does not win enough collisions; something you could never ever level at Cian Healy. Furthermore he has had a rough ride against a pretty limited Harlequins scrum. At least Ross can hold up his age as a mitigating factor. I am quite concerned about Ireland’s scrum for the 6N if Healy isn’t back fit. Comparatively, I thought Marler was really excellent on Saturday.

    Devin Toner. I can understand the case behind including him for Ireland, adding heft and weight to a light pack, particularly in mauls, rucks and scrums as well as being a reasonably solid lineout option but his lack of agility really holds him back and always has done. Also, terrible body positions entering rucks contributed to some very slow ball for Leinster.

    Ian Madigan. People querying the lack of creativity and incision from Leinster need to take a hard look at him. His default appears to be firing really hard, fast pass slightly behind a runner. Needs to focus more on accuracy. An absolute joke he got man of the match. I think Leinster need to take a look at Reid, who is more raw but may have a higher ceiling at 12. Madigan has yet to produce the goods in a high-level match. If you object, please provide an example.

    In general, the pack is a little underwhelming, especially in terms of carrying ability. No one really commits multiple defenders and dominates collisions, like an SOB would. Physically Ruddock has the potential but it never quite seems to play out like that. Sean Cronin seems more comfortable in the wider channels, attacking soft shoulders, than . Lack of carrying makes for lack of quick ball, which makes for a lack of tempo which seems to be the major difference between Leinster of old and the current vintage.

    • Both Leinster and Munster are terribly bereft of genuine line-breakers – any major victory they have, and this is probably true for Ireland as well, is going to have to be based on guile at 9 and 10 and the kind of gameplan Joe Schmidt had in autumn.

      No room for bad scrum or lineout, with that in mind.

    • D6W

       /  December 15, 2014

      ” Madigan has yet to produce the goods in a high-level match. If you object, please provide an example.”

      I believe you have made this exact claim in the past, and people have been able to give examples. Amlin QF against Wasps 2 years ago, Pro 12 semi and final last year were two such.

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 15, 2014

      Madigan is a ten, best in Ireland atm, games as mentioned above^. Only a moron would persist with him at 12.

      • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

         /  December 15, 2014

        Hear! Hear!!!

      • Billy

         /  December 16, 2014

        Ronan – agreed on your points.

        So LL, to your point above, did Madigan not play 12 in two of the games quoted?

        The Northampton no-show – did anyone play badly that day? He certainly didn’t stand out and was hardly the difference between victory and defeat. Plus he was atrocious the following week. He was good in the Rabo knock-out stages at 12, granted. The Amlin QF was a glorified game of tip rugby but he was good but not outstanding in a low quality game.

        I don’t want to get into the debate again but I see him as a very good Rabo player but ineffective at a higher level. A flat track bully. The only part of his game that is world-class is goal-kicking. Doesn’t have the brain to play 10 or the physical attributes to play 12 at a higher level but a decent utility player all in all.

        • Letthelionroar

           /  December 16, 2014

          Billy, I think you are being very harsh on guy who is only 25 and playing in pivotal positions, fair enough to expect a 25 year old winger to be playing close to full potential. It took Sexton many years to develop into the player he is today and in my opinion Madigan is further ahead the curve when you compare to a 25 year old Sexton. To say that Madigan doesn’t have the brain to play is a tad derogatory and certainly short sighted.

          • Billy

             /  December 17, 2014

            25 yes but he’s played 118 times for Leinster. By the same age Sexton had far less professional experience but was duelling with ROG for the Ireland jersey and had a far more rounded game.

          • D6W

             /  December 17, 2014

            But Madigan early in his career had many starts for Leinster when the entire Leinster back line were called into the Ireland camp. He was very raw at the time, it was probably too early for him, and was a different player to what his is now.

            Sexton had much fewer starts early in his career because Comteponi was keeping him out of the Leinster line-up. And he certainly did not look anything like the player he has developed into now.

        • curates_egg

           /  December 16, 2014

          Welcome to the forum MOC. You need a bigger tracksuit.

        • D6W

           /  December 16, 2014

          “Doesn’t have the brain to play 10”?

          You have been quite keen for people to give examples, so why don’t you give some examples to back that statement up.

          • Billy

             /  December 17, 2014

            There are two terminal issues for him (as a 10): consistent poor decision making and a mediocre tactical kicking game. He has an eye for the spectacular so I understand why people who don’t really get the game are drawn to him. To his credit, he does have good feet and is a strong goal kicker.

            He also lost points for me for initiating a row with Danny Care and subsequently let him climb on top of him and puck the head off him!

          • D6W

             /  December 17, 2014

            @Billy No examples here. And to say his tactical kicking is poor is just reminding everybody how poor Gopperth’s is at the moment, and what a travesty it is having Gopperth at 10 (not withstanding his last 2 games were OK).

            So “people who don’t really get the game are drawn to him”? So all the Leinster supporters and others, including many contributors to this forum, who would like to see Madigan at 10, “don’t really get the game”! That is some arrogance.

            MOC, just pick him, or better yet, do the decent thing and quit, but stop wasting your time on this forum!

          • Billy

             /  December 17, 2014

            Examples – Northampton at home last year and Munster x2 last season.

            That’s a funny way of interpreting what I said and certainly not the message I was getting across.

          • D6W

             /  December 17, 2014

            @Billy Tad curious, was Leinster your primary team which you now don’t support because you dislike your fellow fans, or are you somebody who supports another team, but has particularly strong views on Madigan’s potential and if/how he should be played on the Leinster team?

          • Billy

             /  December 17, 2014

            Exactly, I supported Leinster. I’d still cheer for them over any other province and I don’t support another team instead. I think they attracted a lot of sunshine supporters, as most successful teams do.

            Having supported through the darker years, I find the current expectation level when compared to the available playing staff nuts. It’s simply not grounded in reality.

            I just don’t particularly rate Madigan as a 10. I hardly think he’s terrible but he’s just not a complete 10. In the higher stakes matches where ball he gets is a little worse, the defences are a bit tighter and he gets less time on the ball he’s pretty ineffective. Add in some dodgy tactical kicking and some ropey decision making and I can see why he doesn’t start. He might get there in the end given some more exposure but I would wager against it.

        • Letthelionroar

           /  December 17, 2014

          ROG was in the twilight of his career, if a 32 year ROG was the only competition on the scene now I would argue that Madigan would be “duelling” too. I think you are looking back on things with rose tinted glasses. Sexton was a late developer, a 25 year old Madigan versus a 25 year old Sexton is a better defender (playing Sexton at 12 would have been unthinkable to most), better passer, better goal kicker, hard to know regarding decision making as Madigan is playing in a poorer team with far less experience then Sexton was dropped into. I agree that Sexton’s tactical kicking has always been superior but Madigan’s really isn’t as bad as you are suggesting.

          I also think your argument about Madigan not doing it on the big occasion is seriously flawed. Sexton only left in 2013, up to that he was never afforded the opportunity to play in the “big occasions” that you seem to only respect. That leaves him with only a handful of big games in the last 1.5 seasons to prove his worth to you, see some of the other comments above for examples of him actually delivering

          • Letthelionroar

             /  December 17, 2014

            I have always been sceptical about contributing to rugby forums as people can hide behind posts and talk out their ass about a topic they know nothing about. The few blogs and comments I read lead me to believe that WOC posters seemed to be well informed so I tipped my toe in. But to see a comment suggesting that people who think Madigan has serious potential “don’t really understand the game” has put me right off. I don’t know anything about the poster but my guess would be that they have never picked up a rugby ball in their life, probably prop up all the usual waterholes in Ballsbridge pontificating about how the played schools rugby with such and such. Was fun contributing but I think I will leave this forum to the “experts”.

          • Billy

             /  December 17, 2014

            Apologies LTLR, that dig was not aimed at you and I was certainly not saying that to believe that Madigan has potential does implies a lack of knowledge. I am not an oracle and I don’t know how Madigan’s career will pan out, I’m just saying that if he is as shit-hot as people think then after 120 appearances he should be delivering on some of this potential, if it exists.

            I was pointing out that Madigan has some pretty significant deficiencies in his game and I would not back him to control a big game where he does not get an armchair ride from his pack. It’s a fair point that he has not had many opportunities in the big games though.

            On the Sexton/Madigan 25 year old comparison, I don’t agree that Madigan was a better player at 25 and I don’t think you’re comparing apples with apples. At 25 Madigan has played a lot more games than JS had and despite this JS had played very well in some big games (H-Cup final, debut versus Fiji, win versus SA). Maybe it is just circumstances (team, etc.) but I think there’s more to it than that.

            On the profile, you’re wrong on every count to be honest. I don’t even support Leinster anymore to be honest. The fans put me off. Funnily enough, when I think of the typical person leaving comments on WOC, I think of your description above – half a season of J5s at Wanderers and a Leinster season ticket holder.

          • Hairy Naomh Mhuire

             /  December 17, 2014

            Reading your comment below, the term ‘hoisted on ones own petard’ springs to mind!!

          • D6W

             /  December 17, 2014

            @LTLR, I hope you don’t leave, I have enjoyed reading your contributions so far, and I have been on this forum for a while now, and this is the first post I have seen that insults the other contributors in such a troll-like way. Not to mention the WoC articles are the best rugby writing in the country!

          • Letthelionroar

             /  December 17, 2014

            @Billy I appreciate the apology. I think we might actually be in agreement about the current situation but not what the future for the player holds, I was merely saying Madigan has potential to develop further not that he is a complete player in anyway now. I am assuming your point is that his current inadequacies are limiting factors not that he is currently a bad player however blunt your arguments where. I wish I could say time will prove which one of us is right but unfortunately with a coach who is playing him out of position and Sexton returning it doesn’t look like he is going to get a decent crack at it. Not sure what his contract situation is but for his sake I would recommend a move abroad.

            Willing to give WOC another shot but the “trolling” must stop….hahaha!

            BTW the Wanderers J5 are a serious side capable of some big scalps on their day.

  9. jojo

     /  December 15, 2014

    Another example, killed northhampton away last year.

    Leinsters rucking is terribly inaccurate as a whole, not just toner.

  10. I took only two positives from Saturday 1. Mads and Fitzy look to be a nice centre combo and 2. Fitzy played 80 min unscathed (I may have watched one or two of his carries into contact peeking through my hands). Apart from that the list of issues just gets bigger and bigger.

    No scrum worth speaking of.
    No leadership
    Accuracy or rather lack there off.
    No real game plan bar kick and hope
    Persistently poor kicking to the opposition back three.
    No plan b.
    Fitness levels.
    Substitution policy
    Multiple injuries in key positions.
    Blunted attack platform.
    Selection policy.
    And a partridge in a pear tree.

    Some people would replace this list with MOC for all the above and while I agree many of the points above fall firmly at the feet of the coaching staff, some do fall to the players. I personally feel that while we persist with MOC as coach very little is likely to change. I’m not looking forward to the up coming inter pro’s as I’ve a feeling we’re likely to be handed three straight beatings before the final Alcohol free Heineken Cup games v Wasps and Castre. Assuming that happens and the Leinster board are monitoring the social media discontent of the fan base I wouldn’t be surprised if MOC’s departure was announced at the end of January. That could be wishful thinking on my part

    • Leinster are playing a team that haven’t beat them in Dublin for 12 years, a team whose coach is arguably even more tactically bereft than their own, and a team with an injury crisis apparently scripted by Frank McCourt.

      Could be 3 wins as easy as 3 losses.

  11. gullit3962

     /  December 16, 2014

    Are Ulster the new Lady Boys? slick looking backline. Capable of scoring some cracking tries but lack the bottle for a fight up front? Henderson and Tuohy are missing to be fair but really 1-8 are not the level to be scraping for wins in tight affairs or away from home.
    Hate the name ladyboys, just to be clear!Do think they have some quality forwards but as a collective have they lost that bit of edge without Muller,Afoa,Henry(for now)and Ferris?

    • Leinsterlion

       /  December 17, 2014

      Nick Williams is banged up, Henry gone, Diack cant carry the burden by himself, they are lacking serious ballast, same boat as Leinster, but with a functioning backline.

    • D6W

       /  December 17, 2014

      If you look at happened with Leinster, it was really only the addition of Rocky and then Hines that turned them from a powder puff pack into a gritty EC winning pack.

      It seems to me that Muller was the key in the Ulster pack, and the failure to replace him with a sImilar player has set the Ulster pack back, wiith knock on effect to whole team.

      It just take one player to turn the whole thing around. Leinster have tried Douglas, but it is not looking successful so far.

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