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Leinster 'obsessing' over fundamentals as threat of Steffon Armitage looms large again

Early entry to attacking rucks is the most crucial element in thwarting the Englishman, says John Fogarty.

IN THE WAKE of Leinster’s latest European loss, many involved in the post mortem have pointed at the province’s failure to deal with man-of-the-match Steffon Armitage.

LeinsterÕs Jamie Heaslip is tackled by ToulonÕs Steffon Armitage Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Toulon’s English back row was instrumental in forcing the eight ruck turnovers in Stade Mayol. And, whether his methods were legal or not, Leinster are of a mind to agree with the analysis that they simply must be better at removing him from the equation.

However, rather than locking in some sort of tailor-made plan to deal with the poacher, as some suggest, scrum coach John Fogarty ends up describing best practice when to illustrating how the Blues intend to stop the exiled Englishman.

“You’ve got to make sure you’re there nice and early. So if I’m carrying the ball, you need to be right on me, so that we don’t show a window for him to get on the ball,” says the coach.
“Like all good sevens, he’s right on the edge of the law with that. Sometimes there’s clear space (between tackle and poach) and sometimes there’s not with him. Sometimes it’s the interpretation of the referee.

“You have to be nice and early, we can’t run straight in to someone, accept contact and go to ground. We have to go to an outside shoulder, in to an arm, so that we can be strong through the carry and all of a sudden the ruck becomes a bit easier.”

These are the types of things that players use ‘accuracy’ as a cover-all term for. And constantly improving these areas is how professionals keep themselves on an even keel even through periods as disappointing as this one.

“These are the small parts of the game we need to be obsessed about, making sure they’re good. It’s a clear message and it’s fairly simple.”

LeinsterÕs Tom Denton is tackled by ToulonÕs Levan Chilachava Romain Taofifenua and Steffon Armitage Armitage prepares to flop all over Tom Denton after he is tackled. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Fogarty added: “Kevin McLaughlin said, as a player he was obsessed about getting better with his mates. So players aim to get better as individuals, that’s their mindset.

“So the players right now are going about their business. There’s no great panic in the players’ minds. There’s frustration in not getting a result, but that leads to ‘right, what do we need to do? Let’s make sure today is good’.

“The small parts of the game — if it’s a ruck, a pass — doing extras, making sure they’re doing their part; the players are focusing on that, obsessed about getting better so that we can build a performance and that’s what we’re trying to do.

“In front of 42,000 we want to make sure the performance is at the level required.”

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Sean Farrell

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