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Dublin: 1°C Friday 7 May 2021
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Cup rugby from here on in for Ruddock and Leinster

After two consecutive losses, nothing but a win will do for Leinster tonight.

Image: James Crombie/INPHO

IT’S BEEN A chastening few weeks for a Leinster Rugby squad who have become used to much praise.

Consecutive defeats will do that, but when they run out against Treviso this afternoon (5pm) the dust will have settled on their demoralising losses to Toulon and Ospreys  and they’ll find that things are not all bad.

“We are still in a really good place. Obviously a disappointing couple of weeks, but we are used to bouncing back after a bit of disappointment,” says Rhys Ruddock.

They didn’t do it last weekend, but bouncing back from defeat to Europe’s best team away to your indisputable bogey team is a whole different proposition to facing Treviso in front of your home crowd.

They will beat Treviso tonight, and it will be only when the result is settled when they can finally move on from discussing the errors than compounded their weaknesses compared to Toulon.

Ruddock, who has shaken off a persistent calf injury to claim the number six jersey today, still allows the names Armitage and Bastareaud ruefully trip off his tongue. Defence and breakdown have been the areas of most intense focus at Leinster training camp. The basics.

“Hopefully we can kick on from here and keep growing the little things that we pick out as a squad. We want to develop and bring on where we were two weeks ago and hopefully this weekend is another step from doing that.”

What they are stepping towards is the defence of a Pro12 crown. And despite some persistent injuries to international players, the absence of real fluidity in attack and or out-half who can call the number 10 jersey his own; Leinster remain fully in control of their own destiny.

Indeed, barring a dramatic collapse in these final three games, they won’t even need to board a plane in the remaining games of the season. So while a bonus point win over Treviso would be nice for the fans who have started off their Good Friday night at the RDS, four points from here on in would be more than just fine.

“We aim to play every game as if it’s a knockout game,” says the flanker who is too close to successful coaches to get ahead of himself.

“If we aim to win all our games until the end of the season, that is the main aim. To get the advantage of a home semi-final, home final is what we are aiming for.

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“We won’t be looking too far ahead for a bonus point. When we get out on the field, we will have to match their physicality and the intensity they bring to the game with our positivity which we will bring this weekend and see how it goes from there.”

He added: “It’s everything for us now. It’s the first time in a while we haven’t had two competitions to play for and in previsuo years we had a final leading into a final and probably being difficult to back up that intensity week on week of a really big game. This year we have one tournament to play for and it’s all or nothing for us.”

Ruddock was speaking in the RDS just over 24 hours before kick-off and just after the Treviso starting line-up had come through. The back-row instantly honed in on the two men who will have to dominate the game if Treviso are to cause an upset – Paul Derbyshire and Roberto Barbieri.

“[The back-row] looks very strong, and the backline looks pretty dangerous as well.

“Having played them earlier in the season, albeit we were missing internationals at that stage, over there and it was a really tough battle and we were lucky to come away with a one-point victory. Sometimes you might look at it and a home game might be one we take for granted but definitely not coming back from two losses.”

Burnout

In the Leinster back-row Ruddock will be aided by Jamie Heaslip and Jordi Murphy. While Brian O’Driscoll returns after being given last week to recover, Leinster have been careful to snuff out any talk of post-Six Nations burnout. The two flankers certainly won’t be taking up that excuse, with Ruddock and Murphy playing only limited cameo roles in the international Championship win.

“It is probably only for the lads who maybe felt a little drained from the whole thing. As a squad, we had plenty of time to prepare for the Munster game and leading into the biggest game of the season to date was that quarter-final. There was definitely a good progression into it. I don’t think there was much of a problem.”

So the problems lie elsewhere, but a win tonight would at least provide an overdue balm for the defeat and ease the pain for at least another fortnight.

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Sean Farrell

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