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Centre Jimmy O'Brien at training this week.
Centre Jimmy O'Brien at training this week.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Adaptability key on and off the field as Leinster welcome Glasgow

20 straight wins and a 22-point lead over tonight’s opponents means Leinster must find their determination from within.
Feb 28th 2020, 7:30 AM 5,268 11

IN A WEEK when cancellations have stolen the limelight, rugby will be a welcome sight on the field and our screens this evening. And is a match to stave off some of the hunger brought about by a three-week – so far – gap between Ireland’s Six Nations fixtures as last season’s Pro14 finalists meet again in the RDS (kick-off 19.35).

Leinster’s winning streak now stands at 20 games, but Glasgow were the last team who managed to leave Ballsbridge with their tails up rather than stuffed between their legs.

And with just six Warriors away on international duty, if any team is capable of bringing a shuddering halt to Leinster’s unerring progress through this season, it’s Dave Rennie’s side.

“Rennie has added a lot to our League, the Pro14, because he plays a brand of rugby that’s exciting,” said Leinster head coach Leo Cullen yesterday.

“They’re physically confrontational, not afraid to mix it up as well. They’ve come out publicly themselves about that ‘brutality’ they use.”

Cullen has a few grizzled veterans around his team to meet that brutality, but he will be looking to fresh-faced prospects to step up and tilt the contest the way of the hosts.

Combative openside Will Connors is back from his stint in international camp along with the newly-capped international Max Deegan. While the vastly experienced Scott Fardy is joined in the second row by a 20-year-old whose best position also lies somewhere between lock and blindside.

“He definitely has a lot of physical potential,” Cullen says of Ryan Baird.

“You can see that when he makes that break up the sideline (against Ospreys), as a second row that’s an amazing bonus. But… he’s not going to get judged first and foremost on making 60-metre breaks.

leo-cullen Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

“He is going to get judged on what he can do at the set-piece, scrum primarily – the nuts and bolts, first and foremost – the other bit is a bonus that can give you separation from what other players can do. You still have to perform your number one job spec.”

Of course, Baird was also put to work in the back row when he was coached by Leinster academy director Noel McNamara. But Cullen insists that ‘for now’ they are keen to see how he progresses with that job spec at lock.

For Baird and all other players, the experience and ability to adapt will not go unnoticed.

It was not with blitheness that the head coach sought to quickly move beyond talk of Coronavirus and potential cancellations yesterday, it was because there are no hard facts to lean on, no right answers at the time he was speaking. Leinster play tonight and then have a three-week lead-in to their next Pro14 fixture in South Africa.

Rugby professionals have long stressed the importance of controlling the controllables, but Cullen and Lancaster’s Leinster have excelled by revelling in everything else. So you sense that, if any team can deal with a postponement and even a rescheduled midweek match, Leinster have the squad and the confidence in their own structures to plough through it without a detour.

“All our preparation is for the uncertainty of a game and the what-ifs of a game. Outside of the 80 minutes, there’s the planning and ‘what happens if this guy comes in….’

“There’s some stuff that is just completely out of your control and you can’t legislate for. 
“Being adaptable. We have that word adaptable quite a lot. For players, in terms of the 80 minutes of a game, adaptability is really important. And over the next period that’s going to come in to play, I think.”

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15. Hugo Keenan
14. Dave Kearney
13. Jimmy O’Brien
12. Joe Tomane
11. James Lowe
10. Harry Byrne
9. Luke McGrath

1. Peter Dooley
2. Seán Cronin
3. Michael Bent
4. Ryan Baird
5. Scott Fardy  Capt
6. Josh Murphy
7. Will Connors
8. Max Deegan


16. James Tracy
17. Michael Milne
18. Jack Aungier
19. Jack Dunne
20. Rhys Ruddock
21. Jamison Gibson-Park
22. Ciarán Frawley
23. Fergus McFadden


15. Glenn Bryce
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Huw Jones
12. Nick Grigg
11. Kyle Steyn
10. Pete Horne
9. George Horne

1. Aki Seiuli
2. George Turner
3. D’arcy Rae
4. Rob Harley
5. Tim Swinson
6. Ryan Wilson (Capt)
7. Tom Gordon
8. Matt Fagerson


16. Mesu Dolokoto
17. Alex Allan
18. Ewan McQuillin
19. Andrew Davidson
20. Callum Gibbins
21. Jamie Dobie
22. Ruaridh Jackson
23. Niko Matawalu

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey to figure out where we go from here — not only post-Twickenham, but potentially into September as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the rugby calendar. The lads also discuss the media’s treatment of the Irish team which some fans and players believe is too harsh, but some non-rugby journalists believe to be too soft.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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