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Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

'Every point counts': Leinster intent on setting European pace through training

Scrum-half Luke McGrath feels the 2018 champions must attack to ensure they don’t fall in Montpellier.
Dec 9th 2020, 6:30 AM 5,855 10

THE FORM BOOK reads well. A magnificent seven wins from seven so far this season. And no less than seven try-scoring bonus points make it a perfect score for Leinster.

Had they not embarked on that run a mere fortnight after a severe reality check from Saracens ended their 2019/20 season they might be lulled into thinking that they are as untouchable as the 35 points from 35 suggests.

A glance across the Pro14 conferences is enough to keep them honest heading into Europe. Irish teams currently occupy the top two berths in both conferences and only Connacht have tasted defeat in a competition forced to stutter on with the pandemic as a backdrop.

Losing games in a tougher league doesn’t put a team in a better frame of mind, but Montpellier will be bullish when they welcome the 2018 champions to their own patch. Not least because they switch competitions after Fulgence Quedrago and Yacouba Camara helped them to win away in Clermont last weekend.

As was the case when Felipe Contepomi signalled how coaches would choose between internationals and prospects who helped to build the Pro14 form in tight selection calls, bridging the gap in standard comes down to efforts in training.

 ”It goes back to the standards in training that we hold ourselves accountable to,” says Luke McGrath.

“We’re well aware that it’s a huge step up this week and that’s why this week’s training… and even last week when the guys were away in camp – we were in for a bit last week and we’re well aware of the challenge that awaits us.

“It’s important that we have a huge training week this week, so when the lads came back from camp there were a lot of meetings, getting them up to scratch with detail today and tomorrow we’ll have a big session. So it’s just a big week’s training and firing into it then on Saturday.”

luke-mcgrath McGrath playing against Montpellier in 2017. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

He adds: “It’s just trying to keep those standards in training consistent at the highest level and that’s what we’ve been trying to do every day. And, yeah, we’ve been getting the performances but it’s a different challenge this week, Montpellier are a huge team, a huge pack and have a very exciting backline.

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“So it will be a massive challenge ahead but one we’re looking forward to.”

The scrum-half soon underlines the need to hit the ground running given this year’s truncated tournament format. The six-game rhythm of the Champions Cup pool will be missed this year with teams given just four matches against two opponents to stake their claim for the knockout rounds.

With the new regime, every single point counts so be confident going over there but understand the threats that they have.”

“There’s no margin for error. That’s the one thing we spoke about in the meeting, it’s a very different format under the circumstances that we’re in today, so every single point counts.

“So it’s important that we go over to France with an attacking mindset and look to start well, because if you give Montpellier a start then it’s very hard to get it back.

“They’ll be high in confidence after the win in Clermont as well. So it’s going to be a huge test for us, but one we’re ready for.”

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Sean Farrell

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