Dan Sheridan/INPHO Leinster prop Andrew Porter.
# patiently waiting
'You definitely use it as motivation' - Leinster raring to go after extended break
Andrew Porter says the province have raised the intensity in training after seeing a string of fixtures postponed.

THE CHRISTMAS PERIOD, which is normally one of the busiest windows in the rugby calendar, felt markedly different for Leinster this year.

The province’s last game came all the way back on 11 December, a routine Champions Cup win over Bath at the Aviva Stadium. Since then it’s been nothing but confusion and frustration as a series of postponements took the momentum out of their season.

The round two trip to play Montpellier was cancelled following Covid outbreaks in both camps, and Leinster are still unhappy with how that fixture ended up getting chalked down as a 28-0 bonus-point win for the French side.

The bad news kept coming, with the St Stephen’s Day trip to play Munster, the New Year’s Day clash with Ulster and the 7 January meeting with the Lions all falling foul to Covid. 

It’s made for a challenging month as Leinster looked to stay fit and motivated ahead of their eventual return to action, which should finally come against Montpellier at the RDS this weekend.

“Obviously it’s tough,” explains Andrew Porter.

“It’s mid-season when you’re trying to build momentum, especially coming into European games, using those games over Christmas helps you build a good bit of momentum coming into that second string of European games.

“So it is tough but we’ve been training away and sharpening our axe as well, we haven’t just been kind of sitting back and thinking about the games gone by or that we haven’t played and we’ve been preparing really well.

I think we’ve had three or four weeks now to prepare for this Montpellier game this weekend and for the games after it as well, so we’re in a really good place as a team and individually I’m in a really good place as well, we’ve used this time to get better and improve the small percentages that we’ve needed to produce during the season.”

With no matches to look forward to at the end of each week, Leinster altered their usual training schedule in a bid to keep the squad sharp.

“Everyone has been saying training has been tougher. We usually train the Monday, Tuesday, off the Wednesday, then kind of a lighter session on the Thursday, captain’s run Friday and game on Saturday.

“But now obviously there’s no games on the weekend so we’ve had the legs kind of run off us a bit during the weeks, but if anything it’s just prepared us even better, the way the coaches have been training us and the way everyone has bought into the team work ethic, more than anything.

“If anything we’ve been working harder than we have previously in the season when we have had games so in terms of fitness-wise, we won’t have to worry about it too much because of the great staff we have and the set-up we have at Leinster.”

andrew-porter-comes-up-against-will-stuart James Crombie / INPHO Leinster haven't played since the 11 December win against Bath. James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

Keeping the body healthy is only part of the challenge. The Leinster coaches have also worked to make sure everybody’s head is in the right place given the frustration and disappointment that comes with seeing so many games shelved.

“Stuart Lancaster is great in that sense, in terms of we’re obviously frustrated in here and now but there’s so much to focus on to re-focus our attention to,” Porter continues.

“Obviously we have a huge game this week and then another huge one the week after, and then all the lads will be going into the Six Nations and obviously a good few URC games after that, so it’s not as if we’re short on the amount of rugby coming up.

So if anything, it’s been a real good chance for us to refocus and kind of improve our game and our cohesion in our training. If anything, we’ve done really well in terms of the adversity of the last few weeks. If anything, it’s been really beneficial.”

Earlier this week Leinster confirmed they had two players isolating, while Montpellier – who had their weekend Top 14 fixture postponed following 17 positive cases in their camp – confirmed three further positive tests on Tuesday. Yet as it stands, Sunday’s game at the RDS is set to go ahead. 

That 28-0 decision which followed the postponed December fixture is still a sore point for Leinster, and they’ll be keen to make a statement come 1pm Sunday.

“You definitely use it as motivation. It’s something that spread across an incredible group that we have in Leinster. From the young players in the academy to the senior lads it’s incredible the amount of confidence and drive that all the players have, and it’s really infectious within the camp.

“It’s definitely not something that we’re going to sit back and moan about and say, ‘Ah, this is a decision we weren’t happy with’. All we can is get on with it and keep playing to the best of our potential and give 100% when we go out on the pitch, especially this week.” 


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