Heaslip and O'Connor at UCD this afternoon. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Matt O'Connor has 'opened up' Leinster's game - Jamie Heaslip

The eastern province’s captain says his side are being pushed to be less ‘robotic’ by their Australian coach.

LEINSTER CAPTAIN JAMIE Heaslip says head coach Matt O’Connor has “opened up” the province’s style of play since taking over from Joe Schmidt in 2013.

The Australian has faced criticism from many supporters recently despite last season’s Pro12 title, with much of the frustration being directed at the tactics Leinster have used during O’Connor’s reign.

However, number eight Heaslip says the former Leicester coach has pushed Leinster’s squad to rely on their footballing skills more and, with the province currently fifth in the Pro12 and second in Pool 2 of the Champions Cup, underlines his contentment.

“Over the last two years, Mattie has really opened up our game I think, forced us to try and play more in terms of not being as robotic, and using your footballing ability while still working in a system as such, a way we want to play,” said Heaslip this afternoon in UCD.

I think you’ve seen that in the amount of tries that we’ve scored and it’s been proven with how we went last year winning the Pro12 and getting out of our [European] group, which we hadn’t previously.

“I think we’re in a good position so far in terms of the league [this season], and it’s still relatively within our control in Europe.”

“I think we’re in a good space thanks to Mattie’s direction, Leo [Cullen] as well coming in for the forwards as well, Marco [Caputo] and Richie [Murphy], the whole management side and coaching staff.

“For us players, and me, you just get a confidence that you want to play a bit more, to be honest. That’s what we’re all about and that’s what Mattie’s brought to the table.”

Ian Madigan Ian Madigan and the Leinster team at the Aviva Stadium earlier today. Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

Last weekend’s defeat to Harlequins in London was a setback in Leinster’s European campaign but, as Heaslip points out, progress into the knock-out stages is still within their grasp.

Victory over Conor O’Shea’s men tomorrow evening on Lansdowne Road is a necessity it would seem, while a truly dominant performance against a Quins side shorn of Nick Evans and Chris Robshaw would be greatly welcome.

Heaslip doesn’t disagree with the notion that Leinster have yet to reach their potential this season, pointing out that it’s down to the men on the field to ensure that happens, rather than O’Connor in the stands.

For players, we’re probably more frustrated with ourselves that we haven’t put together an 80-minute performance. As a group we’d say that.

“At times, we have started games really well but then switched off for 10 minutes and made a couple of silly errors to let someone back into the game. Or we’ve not started well and given a team a leg up, only to get back in the game and still win it, but you’ve given yourself a handicap starting.

“That’s been frustrating internally. That’s stuff that we can control as a group and that we need to deliver on come Saturday against a team like Harlequins.”

Originally published at 15.46, updated at 17.09.

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