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Dublin: 16°C Saturday 8 May 2021

Leinster's 'poach group' battling for turnover points as Cardiff Blues visit RDS

Hooker James Tracy is hoping to help Leinster towards their seventh win of the season.

EARNING TURNOVERS IS one of the most important elements of rugby, so it makes sense that Leinster have a specialist group in this area.

The province’s ‘poach group’ brings together their key turnover threats, those men who tend to be the ones getting over the ball in defence in a bid to steal possession or at least slow it down.

Naturally enough, most of this group are back rows but James Tracy, who starts the Guinness Pro14 clash with Cardiff Blues at the RDS today [KO 5.15pm, eir Sport/TG4], is one of the hookers involved.

Leinster’s poach group keeps a leaderboard based in turnovers, as Tracy explains.

“So there are points for basically any turnovers: poaching, reefs, barges, turnover scraps on the ground, any sort of turnover of possession.

“It’s a bit of craic as well. We kind of keep score, and if you get turned over on the ground yourself or anything like that it’s minus points, or if you give away a penalty it’s minus points.”

The group – which is led by contact skills coach Hugh Hogan – usually meets on a weekly basis, although things are a little more fractured at the moment with so many players away on Ireland duty.

“We go through opposition trends in the game and then we obviously practice the different elements in how we help each other out, and good positions and good habits and stuff like that.

“We still would have conversations and we still have our pre-training group a couple of times a week. It’s good, it’s just an extra thing a few of us do.”

Tracy is happy to report that he is in the green with his points total so far this season, no surprise given how much of a breakdown pest he tends to be for Leinster.

Traditionally, it was the back row players who offered this kind of ability but hookers are now expected to pose a consistent danger too.

james-tracy-arrives Tracy and co. take on the Cardiff Blues at the RDS this evening. Source: Ryan Hiscott/INPHO

“I think it’s really important and in fairness to all of our hookers here, we’d all be in and around the poach group, especially myself and Ronan [Kelleher], we probably have the most interest in it.

“But it’s a really important part of the game, especially with the new laws. Your decision-making is the most important thing and then being effective when you’re in there.”

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Given that Cardiff Blues are the kings of jackal turnovers in the Pro14, this promises to be a fascinating area of this evening’s Pro14 clash in Dublin.

Dan Leavy moves into Leinster’s number seven shirt after starring at blindside flanker last time out against Edinburgh, while Ryan Baird makes his first start of the new season having recovered from injury. 

Leo Cullen’s men will be hoping to make it seven bonus-point wins from seven so far in this campaign. 

Cardiff Blues

15 Matthew Morgan
14. Owen Lane
13. Garyn Smith
12. Ben Thomas
11. Aled Summerhill
10. Jarrod Evans (captain)
9. Tomos Williams

1. Corey Domachowski
2. Ethan Lewis
3. Dmitri Arhip
4. Ben Murphy
5. Rory Thornton
6. James Ratti
7. Alun Lawrence
8. Josh Turnbull


16. Iestyn Harris
17. Brad Thyer
18. Keiron Assiratti
19. Teddy Williams
20. Gwilym Bradley
21. Jamie Hill
22. Max Llewellyn
23. Hallam Amos 


15. Jimmy O’Brien
14. Cian Kelleher
13. Liam Turner
12. Ciarán Frawley
11. Dave Kearney
10. Harry Byrne 
9. Luke McGrath 

1. Peter Dooley
2. James Tracy 
3. Michael Bent 
4. Ross Molony 
5. Ryan Baird
6. Josh Murphy 
7. Dan Leavy 
8. Rhys Ruddock (captain)


16. Dan Sheehan 
17. Michael Milne
18. Tom Clarkson
19. Devin Toner
20. Jack Dunne 
21. Rowan Osborne 
22. Michael Silvester 
23. Scott Penny 

Referee: Mike Adamson [SRU].

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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