Willie Anderson on the VCR

While idly thinking about how terrible Leinster were on Sunday, something popped into our head – was this the end of the great Leinster side? A few names are already gone – Dorce, BOD, Cullen, Jennings – and we’re certainly long past the peak. The difficulty about managing this type of decline is having to do a huge amount in a small period of time.

Consider the Munster Liginds – their peak was, ironically, the year Leinster finally broke through – 2009. They were European champions, the best team in Europe and the backbone of a cracking Lions side. But less than 2 years later, their shark-jumping moment happened – a 32-16 thumping in Toulon (then European novices) that was notable for how shocking it was to see such a great team eviscerated. That kicked off the gradual process of putting the Liginds out to seed, albeit not before winning that years Pro12, with the young Conor Murray to the fore.

Three years later, Munster made the HEC semi-final, also playing Toulon, but with only five of the players from 2011. There were still Liginds on the payroll – O’Connell, O’Callaghan – along with a few stopgaps – Downey, Dougall – but, amazingly, only 12 of that team are still at Thomond, and just one played in the first Toulon game five years ago. An incredible amount of change.

  • Toulon 32-16 Munster (Jan 2011): Warwick; Howlett, Earls, Tuitupou, J Murphy; O’Gara, Stringer; Du Preez, Varley, Hayes, O’Callaghan, O’Connell, Coughlan, Wallace, Leamy. Replacements used: Mafi, O’Leary, Darragh Hurley, Sherry, Buckley, O’Driscoll, Ronan, D Ryan.
  • Toulon 24-16 Munster (April 2014): Jones, Earls, Laulala, Downey, Zebo, Keatley, Murray, Kilcoyne, Varley, Botha, Foley, O’Connell, Stander, Dougall, Coughlan. Replacements used: Denis Hurley, Hanrahan, Cronin, Casey, O’Callaghan, O’Donnell
  • Players playing in both games (5): Earls, Cawlin, Varley, O’Connell, O’Callaghan
  • Players from 2011 currently playing for Munster (1): Earls

The same weekend as Toulon ended the Ligind, Leinster beat Racing Metro with 13 players who are still on the payroll (Nacewa, Fitzgerald, Sexton, Boss, Healy, Strauss, Ross, Ruddock, O’Brien, McFadden, Reddan, Toner, Ryan) and Ulster beat Biarritz with 7 men who are still plying their trade in Belfast (Trimble, iHumph, Pienaar, Best, Tuohy, Falloon, Henry) as well as BJ Botha.

Are Leinster facing the Munster scenario, where only one player is around in five years time? Or the ‘Leinster’ one, where the bedrock of the team is already on the books? Much of that in theory relates to the age profile – you’d look for your core 25-30 year olds to backbone that transition and help bring through the younger cohort. Looking at the 2011 Munster team, there is a dearth of players like that – something the Mole has looked at in the past.

Looking at the list of Leinster players (Heaslip didn’t play in that match – I know, weird – but was and is a key player from that era who remains on the books), the concern is not perhaps the age profile but injury-afflictions. The main age-related concerns are the two scrum halves, now more fitfully effective than ever, Nacewa and Mike Ross.  Heaslip can’t go on forever but is astonishingly durable and could conceivably go on for another three seasons – although Nick Easter might think that’s a low estimate.  Mike Ross is in decline, but with not one but two internationals – three if you count Mike Bent – waiting to take over from him, that position doesn’t appear to be a major concern.  The scrum half position is a live issue, though, and it remains very much in the balance whether Luke McGrath is technically good enough to be a Heineken Cup starter in the future.

What was worryingly evident on the pitch on Saturday was a lack of on-pitch leadership. Leinster’s biggest problem is that each of Sean O’Brien, Cian Healy, Jonny Sexton, Rob Kearney and Richardt Strauss appear to be struggling under the weight of accumulated injuries.  Healy and O’Brien are two of Ireland’s most dynamic and explosive players, destructive ball carriers blessed with fast-twitch muscle fibres.  Their like is rarely produced.  However, neither has been able to be at their best over… what…  two to three seasons at this stage as a result of numerous injuries.  Jonny Sexton has had concussion issues and has yet to reclaim his usually regal form since his extended layoff.  On Sunday he was unrecognisable as the player we know.  Luke Fitzgerald’s class remains, but he’s another who is injured more often than not. Ian Madigan might be an important member of Joe Schmidt’s squad, but it’s reasonable to say he needs to spend at least as much time specialising and developing his own game as he does stepping into the officer corps. And there would have been Kevin McLoughlin too, profoundly underrated and at his best a hugely influential presence.  That’s your 25-30 class right there – guys who may only have seen Willie Anderson through the medium of video – but none at this point are where Leinster need them to be.

It’s worth mentioning of course that they are all just back from the World Cup, and fatigue is one possible issue – something Dorce highlighted today. That said, only Sean O’Brien of the above would be happy with his RWC performances – Ireland’s on-pitch leaders were largely from Munster (O’Connell, O’Mahony, Earls) or Ulster (Best, Henderson), and the 25-30 Leinster men were curiously absent when talking about Ireland’s standouts (Heaslip was the best Leinster player on view in our opinion).

This was to be the generation of leaders who would take over from the previous one; the O’Driscoll-Darcy-Cullen-Horgan-Jenno generation.  But if this group of players is taken out of the equation, for whatever reason, it’s a step down in terms of quality and experience to the next group of would-be leaders.  One man who has long been inked in as a future captain is Rhys Ruddock.  Tough and willing to put his body where others wouldn’t, he is an obvious contender, but he is only making his way back from injury himself.  But who else?  Leinster have a number of somewhat enigmatic talents such as Noel Reid, Jordi Murphy and Sean Cronin; players whose ability isn’t in question, but it’s not clear they have the credentials to become the spiritual successors to Gordon D’arcy, Shane Jennings and Bernard Jackman.  It looks a way off for the time being. Garry Ringrose looks nailed on, but ask BOD during the Gary Ella era how much difference at outside centre can make on his own.

We can all agree that Leinster are unlikely to be troubling the horses in Europe this season, but there is always the soothing balm of the Pro12.  Last year Leinster were hopeless in this competition, and it was that which did for Matt O’Connor (not the style of play as stated by Shaggy in the Sunday Times – Leinster fans were quite happy when Cheika was winning trophies without troubling the whitewash).  Leo Cullen will be expected to deliver Leinster to the semi-final stages and hopefully to go and win it.  But then this year it’s likely to be a soothing balm for pretty much everyone.  It seems unlikely that any of Munster, Glasgow, Ospreys, Scarlets or Ulster will be still alive at the pointy end of things in the ERC.  There’s only so much soothing balm to go around, and not all wounds can be balmed sufficiently.  But such a challenge will only be mounted if their key 25-30 year old leaders are at their best.  Leinster desperately need Healy, O’Brien, Kearney and Sexton to overcome their current issues and regain their effectiveness.  Failure to do so and this transition could be longer, and deeper, than anyone has probably considered.

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31 Comments

  1. I don’t really buy the injuries and WC thing – Leinster players returned battered from a disappointing WC2011 and destroyed all before them – but the leadership thing is an issue. I think it might come down to continuity.

    I had a look at the 3 HEC final teams – Cullen & Nacewa started them all, McLaughlin started two, Jennings started one and came on in the other two. Each team had one top class foreign forward – Elsom, Thorn, Hines – and at least one underrated foreign grunt (Wright, Van Der Merwe, Whitaker).

    So much of the real officer corps of those teams couldn’t – for whatever reason – have got an international game outside of an outbreak of plague, but they were present week in, week out, for Leinster whether the Irish glory boys or the espoirs were filling out the 23. As the only remnants of that group, McLaughlin’s retirement and Nacewa’s injury look very costly.

  2. D6W

     /  November 18, 2015

    “Leinster men were curiously absent when talking about Ireland’s standouts”. I would argue that Ross and FItzgerald were amongs Ireland’s standouts, despite their subsequent absence from Leinster.

    What was unfathomably about Leinster this weekend was their flatness. It was like they had no interest in competing (with a few exceptions), just wanted to go through the motions. It may be a lack of an officer corp, but Sexton should have been leading the team in Isa absence. I wonder if there is a flip side to Schmidts much vaunted attention to detail and individual video analysis has left a mental legacy with Leinster. That players are so focused on not making any individual mistakes that they don’t take any risks and don’t really care about the team result so long as they can’t be blamed on Monday morning.

    • Excellent point D6W….reminds me of this http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/six-nations/rob-kearney-a-perfect-performance-is-not-about-scoring-tries-its-about-not-making-mistakes-31050936.html

      “A perfect performance to me isn’t scoring a couple of tries, a drop-goal and making a few linebreaks. For me, it’s not making any mistakes.” – quite depressing to hear such an attitude from a fullback, especially when such a so called solid player is such a defensive liability in the first place. Depressing to hear from any type of back really.

    • I wouldn’t read that quote from Kearney too prescriptively. I can’t be bothered searching for it but I distinctly remember an interview with Robbie Henshaw after the November Test against South Africa last year where he said that he put a chip in behind South Africa’s defensive line (the chip which indirectly led Rhys Ruddock’s maul try) because he knew that if he didn’t he’d get called out for it on the following Monday’s video session for not spotting and exploiting the space. It can obviously be just as much of a mistake to fail to do something good as it is to do something bad, and I’m sure Schmidt’s methods reflect that.

  3. jacothelad

     /  November 18, 2015

    The ‘lesser’ Tier One rugby nations – or should I say smaller ones, always have a cyclical success profile. Ireland, Scotland and Wales are at different stages of the cycle. After relative success in the Six nations since it began, Ireland are in decline. We still suffer from the same self inflicted wounds. e.g. Keeping young, talented players in our Provinces sitting on their collective gluteous maximae while the old hands get selected week in, week out or Test in, Test out if it comes to it. What in the name of all that’s Darwin was the point during the RWC of calling up McCarthy and Boss? Absolutely NONE. NO EFFING POINT AT ALL. What was the point of even considering Darcy as a RWC squad player? There has to be some sort of breakout from the stupid history of fielding Dad’s Army teams full of yesterdays men. There is a lot of hot air spewed about leadership. leadership stems from playing at the peak of your ability and leading by example and making correct decisions. The greatest flaws in this RWC – as in the last – came from the decisions made off the pitch.

    It is often thrown around that Schmidt wanted to get his 15 best players on the pitch. Well, bringing injured players who are your part ‘best’ 15 or drastically out of form players who are your ‘best’ 15 or playing your best backs in positions in which there are maybe less talented but better players in those positions is very poor leadership.

    There are problems with the current Provincial sides. Take the one with which I am most familiar. Ulster have over the last 15 years stuffed the squad with guys who are not up to the required standard. Many get 2 year deals, get paid and never pull on the shirt. Or worse, get to actually pull on the shirt and play like drains because that’s all they can do. Why sign guys who can’t cut it in England simply because they are I.Q. Why don’t they give opportunities to local players who at least would play for the shirt rather than the salary. Ulster don’t have aback row that would put fear into a Brownie Pack, It’s filled with indifferent players and Chris Henry so they sign the likes of Clive Ross, Willie Faloon and Sean Reidy and splurge on Piatau – a full back when we have possibly the best 15 in Ireland paying at 13. It’s a nonsense frankly. The Ulster A team has become a laughing stock of late. Anyone who watches the local teams AIl can see there are better players out there than the ones in the Ulster set up.

    The IRFU need to decide if they want the teams to be able to compete with others or if they simply want them as brood farms for Ireland. If it’s the former they need to review the NIQ limits. If it’s the latter they need to bin all NIE and most NIQ players.

    We have structural problems within Irish rugby that need seriously addressed. This begins with the various Schools Cup competitions in which the bigger schools can often field physically dominant sides that aren’t necessarily filled with the best players. We are always going to play second fiddle to soccer and / or GAA – particularly in Ulster at schools level.

    The AIL is bit of a failure in some respects. Hauling amateur players from one end of the country to the other to no real benefit maybe needs a rethink.

    • Topsy

       /  November 18, 2015

      Well said although I suspect he brought Boss and McCarthy because all parties knew and agreed that they wouldn’t tog out at any stage whatsoever.

    • Jaco makes very good points but is skirting around the elephant in the room at Ulster. There are simply too many back room appointments with track records which seem unrelated. The Academy manager whose expertise is in the same environment as the IQ players. The Team manager whose expertise is in negotiating player contracts. How many were overseas international back rows? A CEO whose expertise is in commercial business development with no track record in professional club development? The coaches all proud Ulstermen but how many indigenous players have they produced? If the purpose of the provincial teams are to produce players for Ireland is that really going to happen by importing players at Academy level? If there are better local players and they are not in the Ulster set up what does that say about the Ulster set up? Are the local players simply not up to being coached in a full time environment or are the Ulster coaches unable to develop the local players?

  4. curates_egg

     /  November 18, 2015

    Firstly, let’s not go overboard after one game. Leinster dominated large parts of the game but didn’t punch smart and looked confused in possession…and a lot of that has to be down to transitioning (mentally and/or physically) jaded players back into the set up and injuries resulting in an untried backline with people out of position. Beyond the Wasps game, Leinster’s season has gone far better than most fans expected.

    There are three fundamental issues Leinster are dealing with: a new, inexperienced management team; an aging and transitioning squad; and the burden of being the main supplier by far to the national succubus. The first two of those problems have strong links to O’Connor.
    He totally failed to manage our transition and refused to develop promising academy players. That has meant we are behind in our transition. Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the new set up is that these guys are getting integrated and are stepping up to the plate. So, while we lost at least a year under MOC, we are now back on track.

    The Euro cup was a write off anyway and the goal for this season has to be to win the league or finish as top Irish province. That is a huge challenge but we should have the squad for it. Then Cullen and co can try to compete in Europe with a more favourable draw.

    The bigger question facing all Irish provinces is how to remain competitive in an environment where the English and French sides are throwing even more money at the game. Wasps were a case in point. They are a mid-table premiership side but look at their recruitment over the summer. Piutau, Halai, Smith…not to mention some decent squad players. If Europe is to remain a goal for Irish provinces, the funding and recruitment models will need to evolve.

    • Tommy Kennedy

       /  November 18, 2015

      Agree about favorable draw Munster and Leinster have been going deeper in Europe every second season since Leinster last won it and I am convinced if you swapped the pools around each season you’d have got a different semi finalist. Far too much luck involved the group stage draw. Munster will prob get out of there group this season but wouldn’t have a chance in Leinster’s. If Munster manage to win a Q/F people will say it is a good season but in reality it is a lucky draw and one win in a knock out game. Same with Leinster year and Munster in Penney’s final season.

      • Lop12

         /  November 18, 2015

        Well luck and how you performed in the league the season before no? If Leinster had finished where Munster did they couldn’t have met Toulon in the pool stage for example.

        So whilst there is some luck involved (getting Wasps as your fourth seed is poor luck) a better league finish should see you get more favourable pool. Munster learned this lesson the hard way in Europe last yr

    • D6W

       /  November 18, 2015

      Definition of SUCCUBUS. : a demon assuming female form to have sexual intercourse with men in their sleep. Hmm, not sure if that metaphor works.

      That said, tend to agree with your point that part of the problems is transitioning the internationals back into the squad. Leinster were comig along nicely until the internationals cmae back into the fray in last 2 weeks.

    • connachtexile

       /  November 18, 2015

      Would agree with you about MOC. I remember hearing how Cian Kelleher was scoring try’s for fun last year in the AIL and A games and was nowhere near the senior team. Ringrose as well has being touted for how long and it’s a shame he wasn’t bedded in sooner as he looks the business.
      I’m wondering how many of the first XV as well are too comfortable in knowing that they are going to be picked more or less week in week out? Would dropping some of the guys and saying your just not playing well enough spur them on? Dropping the likes of Rob Kearney or Healy for a few games giving them time to rest as well as lighting a fire under them might be a good thing in the long run.

      • SportingBench

         /  November 18, 2015

        There is also a benefit to dropping a player when they are not playing at their peak even if they are the best option with a view to trying to get the best out of them. Nothing more dispiriting than seeing good players not performing. Takes courage to drop the better players in the hope that it both inspires the understudies and helps the playerre-discover their best form and it takes judgement to know when is the right time to do it. However insisting that each player delivers their own level of performance based on their circumstances as part of the collective rather than allowing players to coast because they are above the average is what consistently sets great coaches apart from the rest

    • Roundy

       /  November 18, 2015

      I agree. The MOC era was bad for Leinster and will take time to undo. We are in a crappy pool in the chumps cup because MOC didnt trust the younger players to deliver in the pro12. So when the internationals were away (most of the team) Leinster got battered from pillar to post and finished outside the top four and rightly got a tough pool. Cullen has been forced to use the academy players from the off because of WC commitments. He and they have done well. However I think one or two should be integrated into the ‘main’ team when all the lads are back. Van Der Flyer is worth a punt in a top game. So too Ringrose. Look how well Tracey went when give the opportunity to scrum down with Healy and Ross. Last weekends performance was odd. It was one of those games where everything unravelled and nothing went right. The players (mostly Internationals) will be pissed off with their underperformance and should be given an opportunity to make amends next weekend in Bath. If the result does not go our way then its time to blood the academy stars (one or tow at a time) in the Chumps Cup form then on. And an opportunity to give much needed rest to certain players. I believe we will see a much improved performance next week. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than a win to shut up that annoying eejit Bruce Craig!

    • Billy

       /  November 18, 2015

      I see the complaint about MOC not blooding enough youth quite often but who should he have played?

      In terms of the brightest and best:
      Ringrose was not an automatic choice for UCD’s AIL team last year and was far too light last year for pro rugby
      Kelleher looked overawed a couple of weeks ago so I can’t imagine he would have looked better last year
      Dan Leavy – injured
      Collie O’Shea is not of the requisite standard I’m afraid
      Peter Dooley has three internationals ahead of him
      Ed Byrne – injured (and the same situation to Dooley)
      Marsh – ahead of Madigan?

      Furlong was selected ahead of Ross for some big games – with justification. Ross Moloney and Van Der Flier both got game time in competitive positions, as did a few of the above.

  5. Tommy Kennedy

     /  November 18, 2015

    Motivation for the core of that Leinster team must be a big problem. Healy, McGrath, Strauss, Cronin, Toner, SOB, Heaslip, Reddan, Sexton, Luke, Rob and Dave all have a couple of Heineken Cups and a couple of six nations. The hangover after the argies match must be incredible. A lot them age wise are in their prime but they’ve a hell of a lot rugby played. The only box left to tick for these lads is world cup and 4 years is a long way away. Badly need some freshness.

    There are eerily similarities to that Munster team but lets not for get between 09/10 to 13/14 Munster made 3 semi finals that were all played away in France which is very unlucky.

  6. Topsy

     /  November 18, 2015

    Dropping so many young players who have been performing quite well in the Pro12 to make room for jaded WC players who are possibly still carrying knocks and haven’t had to perform their way back into the team is a bad way to go about things.
    Those young players need to be reassured that they are doing well and be given the chance they deserve. Then if they do well and WC players genuinely have to fight for their place in the team everyone’s a winner. If the young players don’t do so well they accept that they were given a chance when they earned it and try harder to get another chance next time.
    Similar to Healy commanding a starting spot in the last 2 WC matches. Can’t do a lot for the other players confidence.
    If Sexton still isn’t 100% then Madigan should have started at 10.

  7. Bricks n Oivy

     /  November 18, 2015

    I like it. Sensible stuff. The scoreline flattered wasps. I particularly like your point regarding MOC that it wasn’t the style that got him sacked, as some suggest. Simon Hick can’t go a week without banging on about “spoiled Leinster fans”. We all loved Cheiks when we were as dour as they came – but winning. They lost most away games last season (W4 L9 D3) despite adequate home form. And then the scrutiny comes: kick kick, losing, not changing anything, kick kick, losing, fighting with the media, losing, fighting with Scmhidt/Nucifora, losing, changing nothing, ignoring kids despite losing etc.

    • For sure there is a section of the Leinster support that demands rugby being played in a particular way, but that’s much less important than the (larger) section that expects the team to look like they hadn’t just met each other, and the (larger still) section that wants to be successful

  8. Lop12

     /  November 18, 2015

    I posted the below on May14th in the “state of Denmark” edition of WOC. Not looking for any pats on the back because TBH it was sticking out like a sore thumb. Not many of my Leinster supporting mates either agreed or wanted to believe it.

    Id be giving Leo a free pass on this season anyways that is for sure. As you can see, I was expecting them to keep MOC on to “dump” one last bad season on him.

    ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–
    I actually think Leinster are in for an awful time of it next season. Your assumption above about Sexton would be correct in three out of every four seasons. Unfortunately he will be coming back from the RWC likely mentally and physically shattered. As will another huge tranche of the best of Leinsters squad.

    With the help of god it will be November before they are finished in the RWC and all will need a break. It will in all likelihood be European cup time before any of the Irish internationals see club action, MAYBE 80 mins in the Pro12 prior to that.

    Leinster will be most badly affected of all provinces escpecially when you consider it is certain, that barring injury
    – all 6 of your first choice front rows will be RWC
    – as will your best 2nd row
    – probably three, possibly four best back rows
    – And your four first choice half backs
    – and Rob Kearney

    (not taking Luke Fitz, Dave K, Darcy, Furlong into account all possibly be there or on standby at least).

    I just don’t see how any coach, let alone MOC will be able to piece together a season whereby he will not have access to any of these guys for preseason and first two (minumim) months of the new season. Integration, rehab etc..it is going to be a nightmare. I think that is one of primary reasons why MOC will be there next season; who would take that on?

    Note: I haven’t factored in Leinsters “pool of death” in Europe either!!!!

    Im sorry, but I cant see how next season will be an improvement on this one, results wise at least.

  9. The lack of leadership really does seem to be killing us. Also can anyone explain how one of the best handling teams in Europe have become worse than a tag rugby team. Seriously the Mary’s under 10s would look like the rugby equivalent of the Harlem globetrotters compared with Leinster. I know some of it is us forcing things because we now suffer chronic white line fever but there was one pass at the weekend that toner had to stretch to take it was so high. Toner!

  10. Maybethisyear

     /  November 18, 2015

    It’s not only Leinster that were flat, this piece is a bit horizontal as well, which proves the point that every one has a bad day at the office. Wasps were unlucky in both games last year, it wasn’t a surprise to see them beat Leinster post World Cup disruption. The margin was wide, but that tends to happen when the game has been won on 50 mins.

  11. osheaf01

     /  November 19, 2015

    Players from 2011 currently playing for Munster (1): Earls

    Tomas O’Leary is back, and Donnacha Ryan is still with Munster?

    • Ryan started only one European game that season so splitting hairs there, but good point on O’Leary: I don’t think Murray displaced him until they were out of the HEC.

  12. Don’t think any team can realistically expect to be as good as Leinster were in the Schmidt years in perpetuity – and if you do do it, it’ll involve some big spending not really available to the Irish provinces at the minute, plus there’s also the NIQ limit anyway.

    However, there are clear questions for each of Leinster, Munster and Ulster about what they want the next few years to look like. Connacht are in a pretty good place (not meaning Siberia).

    Think you’re wrong to question SOB’s form over the past couple of years. Injuries, yes, but he’s regularly Ireland’s best player. I also didn’t think Sexton was that bad last week – one out on the full from kick off and a missed touch do not a bad performance make, and he was the teams biggest attacking threat ball in hand – the major issue being that your outhalf should not be your major threat ball in hand. That said, he was hardly at his best either, but even if he is, will it matter? I thought the Leinster pack was on top at the rucks in the first half, but Wasps played smart and let them at it, packing the defensive line and letting them have the attacking breakdowns by and large. Second half that point of advantage disappeared anyway, but the major concern is the inability to tie in defenders close to the breakdown, and the inability of 11-15 to do anything much at all.

    That last point is the killer. MOC was a bad fit for Leinster but, at the same time, he did realise in the ERCC semi last year that Leinster had a pack that could match Toulon’s or better, but not the backline, and the game was played accordingly (and nearly worked). In Leinster’s first XV now I’d say that’s still true, most of the (proven) quality is in the forwards. Now is the time to be brave and get Ringrose in as a starter. Him and Te’o or with Madigan/Reid provides two very different types of partnership, both of which are nicely balanced.

    Overall the squad is laden with some talent but the IRFU have to start moving a few more players around to balance positions. Ulster have about six centres, at least one should go to Munster (bring a back rower the other way), Leinster should lose a prop or two… I could go on with that, but it’s a whole other topic entirely.

    • A couple of years ago plenty of young players were hanging round Munster, wearing the shirt and basking in the reflected glow of past glories, but now we see the likes of Butler and Hanrahan moving on and getting gametime.

      Maybe the same’s happening at Leinster. You have to ask what the hell Murphy and Ryan are still hanging round for – were it not for McLaughlin’s untimely retirement they’d be sixth and seventh choice backrows this season behind Heaslip, SOB, Ruddock, Conan and the aforementioned McLaughlin. Where’s the ambition?

      • Peter Daly

         /  November 19, 2015

        You only need to go to any South Dublin hotspot to see plenty of young Leinster players swanning around in their tracksuits and flash cars. And at night time you can normally spot them in Krystal or the Dean with some young blonde drapped on their arm. I’d love to tell you which ones but honestly their heads are so far up their own asses that I can’t pick them apart.

        Joking aside I see this lack of drive as a major issue. They seem content to see out their contracts making the odd appearance here and there. It harkens back to Keane’s rant about younger players at United thinking they’d made it and not pushing on. These youngsters are well paid, are at one of the top sides in Europe and have a great lifestyle. I can see why they don’t want to leave the cocoon of the Dublin rugby scene. But they should look at the likes of Shane Jennings, Leo Cullen and Felix Jones to see how a move away can be a great way to jump start they’re career’s. It was interesting the read the recent interview with Jordan Coughlan in the Indo and hear him speak about the move away from Leinster

      • Murphy is ahead of Conan, to be fair, and possibly would have been ahead of McLaughlin too, although McLaughlin’s position as captain might have made that a complicated selection.

        If I were to venture a guess on the ambition front I’d say it’s pretty clear to them that they can get selected for Ireland regardless of their current position in the Leinster squad: That wasn’t true of Cullen, Jennings, or Jones. Jordi Murphy is probably the fourth best back-rower at Leinster and has 14 caps over the last couple of years, including starts at home to England and in a World Cup quarter-final; Jack Conan is fifth in the pecking order and was capped in the World Cup warm-ups; Dominic Ryan is anywhere from sixth to eighth and got a chance against Georgia in November last year.

        It’s pretty clear that Schmidt rates Leinster’s back-up back-rows quite highly. In that context, why wouldn’t you bide your time a little, knowing that when injury hits a player ahead of you in the Leinster set-up you’re also very likely to get an Ireland call-up?

        I’m not sure that will last. From outside Leinster, it’ll be interesting to see how Joe rates CJ Stander when he qualifies. His presence could have a knock-on effect for the Leinster back-ups who are also Ireland back-ups as of now. I’ll also be interested to see if Murphy stays ahead of Tommy O’Donnell on his return from injury, a preference I’ve found completely unfathomable. Jack O’Donoghue is another who could make an impact, although his chances are probably being hindered by having to learn the ropes at 7 for a while. Lastly, if Connacht’s excellent form continues you’d assume Masterson or McKeon would at least get a look-in at training squads etc; the latter was certainly a big improvement on Conan when he replaced him for the Wolfhounds earlier this year. And then from inside Leinster, Van Der Flier and Leavy will create still more competition. Some of them will end up leaving, it’s just too big a back-log.

        • Roundy

           /  November 20, 2015

          wonder will we see a few key moves around the provinces from next summer. Nucifora must be doing something for his wages. The talk on Henshaw switching to Leinster, if true will have other players moving as well. Teo’s contract is up at the end of this season which could leave room for a centre to come in. Henshaw? Be interesting to see him and Ringrose together. The many, many back row options at Leinster will, I think be spread around, likewise the Ulster centres. Possibly some front rowers from Leinster also. The worry in all of this is the seeming lack of excess talent currently being produced in Munster. I suppose any move is ultimately up to the player themselves. Whatever happens I do hope Van Der Flyer stays put. He is a gem and definitely an International in waiting.

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