Bryan Keane/INPHO
Big Hitter

Baird honing in on fundamentals for Leinster

Ireland’s call will surely come soon enough for the powerful lock.

EVERY TIME RYAN Baird steps up to a new level, the more he looks like the complete package.

Saturday was the 21-year-old’s first European start and, had there been a crowd in the RDS, he would have been the man bringing them to their feet.

While the back-line had to be patched up and shuffled due to injury in the first-half against Northampton, Baird and James Ryan formed the core of Leinster’s pack effort, with the younger St Michael’s alumni igniting the game early with a trademark gallop through open field and a series of crunching contacts on both sides of the ball.

Baird would almost certainly have earned an Ireland debut in recent months were it not for injury, Andy Farrell is fan, but the versatile lock feels he must fine-tune some fundamentals in order to give him a boost into the Leinster side. International honours will follow.

“I guess it’s the basic principles of being a second row,” Baird said when asked where he felt he had room for improvement after his man-of-the-match performance in the scrappy bonus point win over Northampton.

“Hitting rucks and being more clinical around the tight carries. Not going too high, I get found out sometimes when I go too high against big players.

“So, probably those principles of being a second row that I can ingrain now in the next couple of weeks.”

Those weeks will give Baird a chance to get a run of games under his belt after frustrating niggles in October and November. He hasn’t faced Munster in Thomond Park yet and, crowd or no crowd, it’s an experience he is looking forward to.

Playing an inter-pro, it’s up there with Champions Cup, it’s got a different edge to it. Because it’s fellow Irish players against Irish players.”

“You are going up against (the) competition. You’ve got to focus on the match at hand. And if you do have a chance to come up against a fell0w (second row / back row) take your chance, I guess.”

ryan-baird-is-tackled-by-alex-waller Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

As a collective, Leinster have grabbed their opportunities in the opening rounds of Europe with two hands. 10 points out of 10 leave the four-time champions in the driving seat chasing a quarter-final berth and they must feel they can double down when they play Northampton and Montpellier again in January.

As Leinster showed against the Saints in Saturday’s bonus point win, they can rumble over some serious speed-bumps and still come out with maximum return at the full-time whistle. Head coach Leo Cullen noted that the men in his dressing room were not behaving like a group that had just put four tries on a Premiership side. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more than enough to seal the required outcome.

“Some good bits to our attack,” said Cullen when asked to look beyond the wrinkles.

“Some good parts to our maul, particularly in the first half. But after that then, I don’t think we really capitalised on some of our opportunities we were creating. 

“So plenty for us to work on.”

Cullen and Baird were both speaking before Munster’s magnificent win over Clermont, so they did not have that to wax lyrical on when looking ahead to next weekend’s inter-pro in Thomond.

After European exploits, both sides will need to rotate. But Baird needn’t be on the outbound tray.

“I was delighted to get out there and get 80 minutes. It’s been a while since I played 80 minutes, so it was nice to have a complete performance and give my best to the team,” said the powerful young lock.

“I’ve never played Munster in Thomond, so all going well, it could be a really cool experience.”

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