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Dublin: 4 °C Friday 18 January, 2019

'We're used to Leinster choking teams out... they were on the back foot'

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan joined Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey on Heineken Rugby Weekly.

Bath: beat Leinster physically last weekend, O'Sullivan says.
Bath: beat Leinster physically last weekend, O'Sullivan says.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

LEINSTER NEED TO focus on winning the physical battle when they go toe-to-toe with Bath again on Saturday evening.

Leo Cullen’s side ground out a 17-10 win at the Rec last weekend that leaves them in second place at the half-way stage in Heineken Champions Cup Pool 2.

But it was Bath who won the battle at the breakdown with Sam Underhill and Francois Louw proving particularly disruptive, forcing an uncharacteristically high seven turnovers.

Defeat in the Aviva Stadium this weekend would be a hammer blow to Leinster’s hopes of defending their European crown.

And former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan believes that physical dominance will be top of the list of work-ons this week.

“Leinster’s problems in the back row were predicated on the fact that physically they did not win the battle against Bath,” O’Sullivan said on Thursday’s episode of Heineken Rugby Weekly.

“We’re used to Leinster choking teams out. They choked out probably the toughest team that you can choke out, the Exeter Chiefs, last year in two matches.

“I thought they were on the back foot on Saturday against a very physical Bath team who haven’t been playing well all season, have been up and down and in and out. Bath lifted their game.

Put it this way: if you’re on the Bath team last Saturday and you’re having your pre-match lunch, there’s 14 guys who beat the All Blacks a few weeks ago playing against you. That does make you stop and think that if you’re not on your game today, you’re going to get wiped out at home in front of the home crowd.

“Bath Rugby isn’t in that happy a place. You don’t need another extra pressure so they came out firing. The back row they had on the field suited that, the conditions suited it, but they were actually more physical.

“Bath had Leinster in trouble when they played route one rugby. It’s when they tried to get smart and go around the corners, they had a lot of handling errors and mistakes that really undid them.”

Leinster also lost two lineouts on their own throw and struggled to build a meaningful platform off the set piece, O’Sullivan added.

“The Leinster lineout didn’t fire at all. It wasn’t all about the breakdown. They lost a few lineouts, including the one that ended up giving them the seven points.

“They also struggled to build a maul and the day that was in it, Leinster needed to be able to build a good maul. Bath disrupted the lineout in a way that they couldn’t build a platform out of it.

When they tried to maul, Bath shut it down without giving away silly penalties, and when they came off the top, some of the ball was badly delivered because there was pressure, which is worrying because Devin Toner basically is key to Ireland’s lineout, you’d imagine he’s key to Leinster’s lineout, and James Ryan was with him. It wasn’t like they were struggling for options. Rhys Ruddock was another lineout jumper in the back row.

“So their lineout has to be fixed as well, it’s not just all about the breakdown, and I think the third thing is their ability not to get bullied around a bit.”

Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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Niall Kelly

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