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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020

Leinster game plan may have 'different slant' with O'Brien and Healy out

Head coach Matt O’Connor says the province ‘have to work out a different way to win.’

Matt O'Connor with Ian Madigan at Leinster training in UCD yesterday.
Matt O'Connor with Ian Madigan at Leinster training in UCD yesterday.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

MATT O’CONNOR SAYS Leinster may have to look at tactical tweaks as their Champions Cup campaign looms.

The province have lost their two premier ball carriers in Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien to long-term injuries, while they have also been shorn of some quality in their back three at the outset of this season.

With the power of Healy and O’Brien having been such a focal point for Leinster’s attack in recent years, their absence is a clear blow ahead of European action, which begins in two weekends’ time at home to Wasps.

While Zane Kirchner is expected to be return against Zebre in the Pro12 on Saturday, Dave Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald remain sidelined, denying O’Connor international cutting edge out wide.

Does the injury list change Leinster’s attacking approach?

It certainly has the potential to,” says O’Connor. “You need to look at what your competitive advantage is against the opposition and we have to make those assessments and weigh up the parameters every week.

“You lose the ball carrying of a Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien and the finishing ability of Kirchner, Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald, you need to make some adjustments. It certainly doesn’t take away from the squad and our position to win games, it might just have a different slant to it.

CJ Stander and Gerhard van den Heever tackle Rhys Ruddock Rhys Ruddock will be a key ball carrier in the coming months. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“You have to work out a different way to win. That’s a job for the coaches to work out, what our competitive advantage is against the opposition.

“That puts a different slant on what you do, a different emphasis on other individuals and selections that need to fill those voids and provide the things that might be missing. That’s all part of the crystal ball that is coaching.”

It is quite the conundrum for O’Connor and his assistants Leo Cullen, Marco Caputo and Richie Murphy. A win away to Zebre this weekend would be a pre-Europe boost, although the province are taking nothing for granted against the Italians.

Thereafter, a Champions Cup pool featuring Wasps, Harlequins and Castres may not be all plain sailing, even if it perhaps compares favourably to the Munster and Leinster’s groups.

I think the reality is that when the groups came out, we looked at it as incredibly challenging,” says O’Connor. “I think what we did last year in Europe gave the guys a lot of confidence that you can go to tough places and get a result.

“From that end, we were brilliant on the road. We’ll be trying to keep up the fortress that is the RDS, and back it up on the road.”

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Murray Kinsella

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