“THERE HAS BEEN a fair bit of growth across the group in relation to a different approach, grafting out wins and being a lot harder to beat.”
That line from head coach Matt O’Connor on Leinster’s 2013/14 season might be difficult to argue with, but it’s also the reason some have not enjoyed the Australian head coach’s first year in charge of the province.
Whatever the public and media perceptions of his time in Ireland so far, O’Connor has a positive outlook on his maiden campaign with Leinster, although he tempers that by saying that a win against Glasgow in tomorrow’s RaboDirect Pro12 final is vital.
“Relative to some of the things we have done, relative to the success through the Test windows, relative to the success of the B&I team, there has been genuine growth in the group.
There are a lot of positives. A lot of things will be gauged off the back of what happens on Saturday. From my end, there has been a lot of positives along the way and I think we will certainly be better for the journey. There are a couple of coaching adjustments to make next year but, by and large, it is the same group.
“As a result of the combinations that I’ve developed with players and they have developed inside the squad, we will be in a pretty good place next season.”
Chief among the aspects of this campaign that allow O’Connor’s positive assessment have been the performances of some of the previously less heralded members of the squad.
The likes of Rhys Ruddock, Jack McGrath, Martin Moore, Dave Kearney and Noel Reid have grown into important pieces of the Leinster make-up, providing O’Connor with much hope for the future.
“There have been a lot of stand-out individuals who have stuck their hand up and have certainly pushed to start for us, have pushed the national side a little bit harder, and we have got probably a broader group, which is really important given we are going to be losing some experience over the next 12, 18 months, two years.”
Whatever about progress next season, there is a trophy on the line tomorrow evening at the RDS. Silverware in his first year with the province would be a major boost for O’Connor, as well as a reminder that Leinster are still a force.
The former Leicester Tigers’ coach rates Glasgow as the form team in the Pro12, pointing to the rounded brand of rugby Gregor Townsend’s men play.
They have been on a really good roll and they have been the best side in the league since Christmas without a doubt. We have to make sure we stop that momentum and we deliver on the things that makes us good and nullifies their strengths.
“They are very physical; they are very direct. They have got some fantastic finishers. They have got a very dangerous bench, with their Fijian boys to come on and play and open up the game.
“Across the board, they are really good at the vast majority of the aspects of the game. We are going to have to be very good across the board to contain them and exert our pressure at key moments.”