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'Huge amount of positivity' in Leinster squad as Connacht come to town

Kevin McLaughlin admits the players need to start delivering on the pitch.

Leinster were beaten by Connacht at the Sportsground earlier this season.
Leinster were beaten by Connacht at the Sportsground earlier this season.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

LEINSTER’S GAME PLAN won’t be going out the window for tonight’s Pro12 clash with Connacht, but Matt O’Connor’s players need to execute in a more convincing fashion if they are to avoid a damaging home defeat to Connacht.

The western province arrive at the RDS for the 19.35 kick-off with a tidal wave of positivity behind them. Meanwhile, Leinster admit their confidence is not at a peak as they struggle to find their best form.

Much of the criticism O’Connor and his side have faced has been based around their style of play, which some have argued is unsuited to this group of players. However, the Australian head coach thinks the blueprint is fine.

Leinster just need to carry it out better.

I don’t think there’s any uncertainty to it, it’s about executing,” says O’Connor. “We’ve got good clarity on what they’re supposed to be doing, what they’d like to be doing. The tough bit is actually doing it. I wouldn’t say there is any confusion there.

“There would be a lack of confidence there that comes with an error. That’s the way it works. But I think we’ve trained really well this week and the guys certainly have good clarity on what they need to deliver on.”

Kevin McLaughlin is in the Leinster back row against Connacht this evening, and admits the onus is on himself and his teammates to cut out the costly errors.

Kevin McLaughlin McLaughlin has had an injury-stunted season for Leinster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Where does this current lack of execution come from?

“Believe it or not, it can be from trying too hard sometimes,” says McLaughlin. “I think we’re overrunning plays sometimes, we’re not holding our feet. Guys are getting over-excited and trying to force it a little bit.

“And those knock-on errors do have an impact on confidence when you’re on the pitch. If a couple of those opportunities are converted early on it just changes the whole complexion of the game.

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“And, you know, at certain stages in the season when we have gotten a couple of early tries it has changed. So as players we have to improve our execution. The plays are there, we need to execute them, get the scores early and execute when we get our chances.

That will change the pace of the game and improve our confidence on the pitch as well.”

The problem, as Leinster go about trying to finally click into try-scoring form, is that their opponents are so ferociously attempting to ensure that doesn’t transpire.

Pat Lam’s Connacht will certainly bring the fire in Dublin this evening, as they attempt to win at the RDS for the first time ever. They are on a four-game winning streak and trail Leinster by a single point in the Pro12 table.

“They’re playing well, their results show that,” says O’Connor of Connacht’s progress this season, “they’ve made significant improvements.

Mike McCarthy with Robbie Henshaw Connacht are in a good place coming into this tie. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“They were always pretty hard to beat and I think they’ve developed a little bit more threat in their game. You know, Aki, Muliaina, Henshaw, Marmion, they’re good players.

“Their front five is very efficient, they work really hard and they give them pretty good platform across the board. We’re going to have to make sure we match that up front and we take our chances.”

As for McLaughlin and the rest of Leinster’s players, they will give Connacht the respect they’ve earned this season. Despite outside perceptions, the back row insists the eastern province are in a good place ahead of their latest demanding encounter.

There’s a huge amount of positivity,” says McLaughlin. “We’ve come to this stage and we know we’re playing within ourselves, but we’re right in the mix in both competitions.

“We’ve been in this position before and we’ve a lot of experience in the changing room and there’s a lot of experience in the coaching staff.

“We’re excited about what’s to come. We’re right in the mix in Europe and right in the mix in the Guinness, so we’re excited for the rest of the season to come.”

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Zane Kirchner, Luke Fitzgerald, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon, Tadhg Furlong; Devin Toner, Kane Douglas; Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Maks Van Dyk, Jack Conan, Jordi Murphy, Luke McGrath, Cathal Marsh, Gordon D’Arcy.

CONNACHT: Mils Muliaina; Danie Poolman, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You; Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney; John Muldoon (capt.), Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Willie Faloon, Caolin Blade, Craig Ronaldson, Darragh Leader.

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Murray Kinsella

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