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Competition enabling Leinster to 'rotate without a dent in performance'

The Champions Cup favourites made wholesale changes in between rounds two and three, but kept their winning streak going.

Image: Craig Watson/INPHO

A HARD-GRAFTED win away to the Top14 leaders cemented Leinster’s status as the Heineken Champions Cup favourites.

Then 17 of the 23-man squad were changed as they issued a statement performance in their Pro14 defence by beating last year’s beaten finalists on their own patch.

For another visit to face a table-topping in-form team – Northampton in the case of the coming weekend – the changes will flow back again for the eastern province. Yet almost every position feels as though there is a strong argument swirling over for any given match. Alternatives are easily found.

The Test-cap count in the European line-ups will reveal an understandable leaning towards the established names. However, the rise of Ronan Kelleher or Caelan Doris are examples of how willing Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster are to adhere to the form guide over past deeds.

“Sometimes it is not about names, but who is in better shape and who is performing better to be best able to do the job for the team for a particular game,” said Felipe Contepomi yesterday.

The Argentine does not feel that the style of Leinster’s last two wins were all that different. Instead, he says, they both springboarded off the same fundamentals. One opponent demands an arm-wrestle, the other a little more flair.

“What we try to do with training and the way we train is to make sure it’s not about names who are in there, it’s about Leinster – that’s the big name.

felipe-contepomi Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“It’s Leinster always being represented with the best players we can. It doesn’t matter who plays, Leinster have an identity and the way we want to play, what we want to show.”

As ever, competition for places drives the standards that has run through Leinster’s nine-game winning streak, competition that begins within the walls of the team rooms and training field.

And as long as a team keeps winning, there will be a continuous feed of the willingness to buy in and fill in when the opportunity comes.

We are lucky and wealthy in terms of how tough the competition is within the squad.

“For us it is not a question of just setting up a team; we want to put the best and the strongest team on the pitch every weekend… you select them and they perform and then you have some other guys that didn’t play and they are fresh (and eager).

“That’s how rotation goes. You can make that rotation. We are lucky that we have a lot of competition for every place and we are able to do that rotation without a dent in performance.”

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Sean Farrell

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