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Dublin: 7°C Monday 18 January 2021

'If he feels that Johnny's got an easy ride in, he'll be banging on Leo and Stuart's door'

Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella explore the potential benefits of the World Cup for Ireland’s provinces.

Ross Byrne celebrates scoring Leinster's fifth try against Connacht.
Ross Byrne celebrates scoring Leinster's fifth try against Connacht.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

MURRAY KINSELLA AND Bernard Jackman are both home from Japan, and with the World Cup now firmly in the rear view — seriously, did it even happen? — the lads joined Gavan Casey on this week’s The42 Rugby Weekly to turn the dial towards the club season.

The Heineken Champions Cup kicks off this weekend with Ulster, Leinster and Munster all in action on Saturday before Connacht make their return to the continental bigtime on the Sunday, and Bernard and Murray provided their assessments as to where each of the provinces stand currently and how they can each improve upon their European exploits from last season.

It was while on the topic of Leinster, though, that the World Cup reared its ugly head again — but this time with a positive twist as far as Irish rugby is concerned.

Murray and Bernard discussed how the tournament in Japan could wind up benefiting the provinces not only in the short-term, but in the long-term, and cited the eastern province as the clearest example of why this rings true.

You can listen to the full Champions Cup breakdown on iTunes, other podcasts providers or the link below, but here’s a snippet from today’s chat.


Murray: “While we were all focused on World Cup warm-up games and what Ireland were doing with their squad, the provinces all had a really long pre-season which is so rare. Like, players don’t actually have the chance to put on a bit of muscle mass — you talk about Josh Murphy, there, who looks maybe three or four kilos heavier but he’s really playing big now. There’s other guys around the provinces — even someone like Conor Fitzgerald in Connacht who looks now more physically capable of playing at this level. They’re across the board, really: [Ronan] Kelleher being so durable, now, having had his injury problems, and looking like he’s realising his potential physically.

“It was a really important, long summer for those players — and potentially career-defining almost because they fully realised their physical potential and now they can push on.”

Bernard: “Even Leinster, like — they went to play Canada in Canada with a very young group. They brought Scott Fardy and James Lowe in a kind of babysitter role. It sounds so basic but just getting on a plane to go play an international side, and knowing that if you play really well and train really well, and are good in that environment, that may lead to games at the start of the season [is beneficial].

“Because even without those internationals, there’s still a huge amount of competition in that Leinster squad. Glasgow for example — if you look at their depth… Dave Rennie’s a brilliant coach but when you take away the international players, there’s not the same level of quality. So the guys that are backups to the starters in Glasgow know that during the World Cup, they’re going to play.

Whereas in Leinster, Ronan Kelleher doesn’t know he’s going to play — he has to be better than [James] Tracy. There’s competition across the board there, and I think that’s a really good mindset and really good environment to be in because every day is a ‘test’ day for those players. When they get used to that as young players, it just gives them such good habits and such good mentality for down the road.

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“Leinster are very fortunate that they have those players in their system, but also they look after them pretty well.”

Murray: “And it’s so good that the players coming back from the World Cup — some who didn’t perform at the World Cup, others who probably didn’t get the opportunities they wanted and others who did, really, perform; they come back in with so much motivation to stamp their authority back in those positions.

“Like, look at Andrew Porter who didn’t get those opportunities that he probably felt he fully deserved at the World Cup — he was so good against Connacht. Someone like Rhys Ruddock — so motivated to get back on the pitch and show what he can do. And then someone like Sexton, maybe, who comes off the back of a bad game last time against New Zealand. And just a reminder — he also has to battle for his place. I know he’s obviously a massive figure and people shouldn’t forget that they’re all such quality international players.”

Bernard: “Ross Byrne, by his nature, won’t give that up easily.

If he feels that Johnny’s got an easy ride in, he’ll be banging on Leo and Stuart’s door. And that’s what you want. You want players who come in, perform, and then don’t expect to be turfed out again just because an international came back.

“It just points towards Leinster being in a really good place once they manage that change back if they do go back to their internationals, which obviously you would say that they will at some stage over the next four or five weeks. But then those [international] lads have to come in and play well or else they’ll risk being dropped.”

Murray Kinsella and Bernard Jackman join Gavan Casey in studio to assess the four provinces and their chances heading into the 2019/20 Champions Cup campaign.

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