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No glitz and glamour but O'Connor happy with Leinster win

The Australian head coach is pleased that Jamie Heaslip is filling in for Sean O’Brien in the ball carrying stakes.

O'Connor wasn't surprised by the lack of attacking flair in Connacht.
O'Connor wasn't surprised by the lack of attacking flair in Connacht.
Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

ONE OF THE more striking aspects of Matt O’Connor’s post-match reactions this season has been his realism.

The Australian may present a very different public face to that which the players encounter in private, but there appears to be little that surprises the Leinster head coach about results, performances or even specific incidents.

When Leinster hammered Northampton in England in December, O’Connor admitted that it was impossible to ensure his side wouldn’t be complacent for the return leg. When Leinster were duly overturned in Dublin, the 42-year-old genuinely appeared to have expected something along those lines.

We are not accusing O’Connor of planning on his side losing that Heineken Cup clash, rather that this is a man who knows his rugby; he is aware that every weekend cannot be perfect, that lows often follow highs. On paper, Saturday night’s visit to Connacht should have represented a peak, but the reality was different.

The Aussie coach had understood that a high-profile team sheet would not result in a five-star win.

You’d like to look at all the glitz and glamour of coming down to Connacht and playing the style of rugby you’d like to play. But talking to everyone who’s been involved with Leinster for a long time, it never happens in Galway.

“We were realistic in relation to what we needed to do to get the four points. It won’t be too dissimilar to next week.”

That O’Connor admitted next weekend’s clash away to Castres will feature a similarly unexciting Leinster approach may not please the more thrill-seeking of the province’s supporters. Despite that high point in Franklin’s Gardens, his Leinster team plays with a more pragmatic edge.

imageGordon D’Arcy’s try proved crucial for Leinster. ©INPHO/Billy Stickland.

At the Sportsground, O’Connor’s men “invited” Connacht back into the game with inaccurate kicking in the first half, but the former Leicester coach was pleased with how they solved that problem: “By and large we fixed that in the second half. We looked after the ball, played in the right areas and we’re pretty happy with the second half really.”

Without their talisman Sean O’Brien, as well as Cian Healy, Leinster’s concerns at present centre around ensuring they have enough ball carrying grunt in the narrow attacking channels, close to the rucks. O’Connor was delighted with the manner in which Jamie Heaslip and his back row cohorts covered that potential deficiency in Galway.

I thought he [Heaslip] carried, in those close channels, really well for us. It’s going to be something we’re going to have to look at with no Seanie, but he was good in those tight channels and got us good go-forward ball.

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“I mean Jordi Murphy gave us a bit of that, Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock gave us a bit of that. So they’re sort of sharing the responsibility with that.”

Aside from the major losses of O’Brien and Healy, O’Connor feels his squad is in good nick for the trip to Top 14 side Castres, a team whose home record is formidable: “We’ve got a pretty fit group. Obviously Seanie’s out, but the rest of the guys are holding together pretty well. They’ve had a couple of weeks off and I think we’re in a good place as a group.”

Whatever happens in Castres, don’t expect O’Connor to overreact.

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