Saturday 28 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Power Struggle
Reddan refuses to accept Leinster have slipped behind wealthy Top 14 clubs
The 35-year-old says an acceptance of that narrative cannot be afforded.

EOIN REDDAN SAYS Leinster’s players cannot simply accept the growing consensus that the financial might of the likes of Toulon means the Irish provinces will find it impossible to compete for European success.

LeinsterÕs Eoin Reddan Inpho / Billy Stickland Inpho / Billy Stickland / Billy Stickland

While Ulster provided some hope with their double over Toulouse in the last fortnight, Leinster were beaten twice by an incredible powerful Toulon outfit that remains some way from their best form.

Munster, meanwhile, lost their back-to-back ties with Premiership side Leicester, adding to the feeling that our provinces will struggle to return to the peak of the European game in the coming seasons.

All over the country, supporters and media alike have been agreeing that the provinces’ relatively weak financial positions and the IRFU’s limit on foreign signings means they may be facing into a barren run in the Champions Cup.

However, Reddan feels that Leinster and the other provinces cannot simply accept that narrative as they aim to rebound. The 35-year-old believes the pressure on Irish players to deliver trophies must persist.

Any tournament I’ve ever won, all I feel after it is relief because the pressure was on me to win it,” said Reddan yesterday in UCD.

“It was kind of like that coming to Leinster; they had won the Heineken Cup in 2009 and I was asking myself, ‘What have I put in that trophy cabinet, what have I delivered while I’m here?’

“That’s the way champions think. External comments that ‘you can’t do it, you can’t do it, you don’t have enough,’ they don’t work. They’re not helping.”

The fact that Leinster feel they could and should have beaten Toulon twice over the last fortnight feeds into Reddan’s refusal to accept that the Irish provinces are streets behind their European rivals.

He points to Ulster’s hugely impressive wins against a disappointing Toulouse side as further evidence.

Eoin Reddan Donall Farmer / INPHO Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

“Look at the first-half we put in last week (Leinster led Toulon 16-5 at half-time last Saturday in Dublin); why can’t we do that for another 40 minutes?” asked Reddan

“There are far more simple issues at stake than for us all to follow down a path. Ulster just produced two amazing results that show we can all be working at doing. There’s other people thinking about the bigger picture and working on them.

“There’s a danger they become excuses and affect your day-to-day, which they can’t do.

People just make arguments to suit results a lot of the time, whereas you go in and look at the video and say, ‘OK, we gave away twice as many penalties in the second-half as we did the first.’ Let’s sort that out before we start wondering who’s getting paid what.

“I mean you (journalists) can’t write an article that says, ‘Don’t give away penalties next week, Leinster’ and hand it in, whereas that’s what I can do and what Leo (Cullen) can do. Even though it’s only one line it actually might make a huge difference.”

The French and English club’s private ownership and inward focus is in stark contrast to the situation in Ireland, where the provinces are part of the IRFU.

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The sad performances of the French national team in recent seasons is damning of the lack of joined-up thinking between clubs and the FFR, while the recent Steve Borthwick furore shows how England clubs and the RFU can come to loggerheads.

Duane Vermeulen is tackled by Eoin Reddan Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Reddan insists that the current struggles of Leinster, and by extension Munster, are down to a failure to perform to peak levels, but he does see scope for a reorganisation of the European competition to ensure that everyone involved is thinking of national teams.

A limit of foreign players might be one tactic with that in mind, but Reddan underlines that Test rugby will remain the most important thing in rugby.

“I think there’s an opportunity there for somebody to structure a club tournament that fits in with international rugby,” said Reddan. “If you do that, then you can attract big sponsors to that club tournament because the players will be able to play in it.

There is an opportunity there because the English and French leagues, their problem is that their club game is not suiting their international rugby.

“If you’re talking twenty years [from now] or big, big picture that is probably the opportunity that exists for someone: to develop a tournament and get big money for it and the players are available for it and available for international rugby as well.

“The international game for the unions is very important, that’s not going to go away. It is probably a bit different from soccer from that point of view. The annual competitions have so much more meaning than they have in soccer.

“I can’t see that changing any time soon.”

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