ON THE FACE of things, the Pro12 break could barely have been timed much worse from Leinster’s point of view.
Despite having 15 players in the Ireland squad through the Six Nations, Leo Cullen’s side utterly excelled over the four-week block in February and early March, yielding 20 points from a possible 20 against Treviso, Edinburgh, Dragons and Scarlets while averaging 44.5 on the scoreboard.
With an attack showing such fluency and form, it was a shame to have to take three weeks out of competition. However, lock Hayden Triggs – who through a combination of the break and a three-week ban for gouging has played just 78 minutes since mid-January – feels that the confidence in the squad has carried over as attention turns to Cardiff Blues and the start of a block of fixtures that will define the season.
“It’s been two weeks off, but last week we had an incredibly tough week physically,” Triggs said at Leinster’s UCD base today.
“The coaches put us through our paces, we had a week off prior to that, so we had a chance to refresh mentally and get the muscles ready to go. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves – we haven’t started training this week – but there’s a buzz around, there’s analysis going on… we’re ready.”
Triggs declines to offer an update on his personal future. However, all sensible signs point to his time at Leinster nearing its end after the acquisition of Scott Fardy last month. He’s enjoyed his time in Ireland immensely, particularly this season when the style of play has made the most of his skills with ball in hand.
“We play a style which… southern hemisphere people think it’s a kick-fest and we play in the mud. That’s not it, we play an expansive game and we love to score tries and we D hard.
“Winning makes it a lot more enjoyable. We’ve had some tough wins, some decent wins I’ve really enjoyed it, it’s been a great experience. And for me, going forward, I hope we can do what we’ve been doing against some quality sides in big games.”
They don’t come a whole lot bigger than the 1 April Champions Cup quarter-final against Wasps in the Aviva Stadium. There will be plenty of Leinster players who know the dimensions of the field intimately after Saturday’s win over England. But they will also have work to do to bed in back with their province and hit the ground running at full pelt.
If they don’t, Cullen has no shortage of in-form men who have been doing the job extremely well.
“As this group has gone on for the last four-five weeks, the confidence is growing,” says Triggs.
With the internationals coming back – it’s good now with Cardiff coming up – but once the international lads are back, as a whole squad and coaching group and management and everything, the excitement will be awesome. We all understand what’s coming ahead.”
“It’s been stop-start, but all we care about now is the next eight to 10 weeks.”
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