LEINSTER COACH MATT O’CONNOR has admitted he may deploy Ian Madigan’s attacking talents deeper in the Leinster’s backline for their RaboDirect Pro12 Grand Final against Glasgow.
Madigan started on the bench, on Saturday, but came on for Brian O’Driscoll [suspected concussion] and scored the match-winning try against Ulster. With O’Driscoll, Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney all picking up knocks, O’Connor was asked if he would consider starting with Gopperth and Madigan on 31 May.
“They could [both start], yeah. Ian has played a lot of footie at 12 and part of the reason he’s on the bench for us is because of the versatility he has got. It’s a pretty special break that changes the game and he’s been on the verge of that all year.”
O’Connor paid tribute to his team for maintaining their composure and not allowing Ulster to get away from them after an under-par hour of rugby. He said, “If you’re behind by a couple of points against Ulster it is a mountain to climb but at 9-0 down with not much left to go, I thought it was a pretty special performance.”
O’Connor added, “When the ref won’t give you a kick at goal, it’s a hell of a lot of points [to be behind].” When it was put to the Australian that Leinster may have employed ‘rope-a-dope’ tactics — soaking up a fast Ulster start only to bring on the likes of Sean O’Brien and Mike Ross — he pointed out that it was never his plan to use 21-year-old scrum-half Luke McGrath on the left wing for the last 10 minutes.
O’Connor tallied the high injury toll [McFadden, O'Driscoll and Kearney all suffered bad knocks] to the added ‘vigour and venom’ of a last four clash. “Thankfully we’ve got a week to dust ourselves off… and get ourselves right for the final in two weeks’ time.”
O’Connor will drive home the importance of providing clean ball to his scrum-halves against Leinster. “Pienaar got the ball on a plate whereas Eoin [Reddan] had to dig it out,” he remarked.
No team has successfully defended the Celtic League/Pro12 but O’Connor is confident that his charges can dig deep to bring out a performance that has only been seen thrice [Cardiff and Munster at home, Northampton away] this season.
“Glasgow are a very good side, a great squad, they have a lot of Test players in their group and they have been building nicely. It was pretty tasty [semi-final against Munster] but we’ve an opportunity to regroup, dust ourselves off and bring them here.”
– Additional reporting by Sean Farrell