'People will write what they write' - O'Connor defends Leinster's season

The Australian head coach says his side are measured by a ‘different yardstick’ to the other Irish provinces.

Matt O'Connor at Lansdowne Road last weekend.
Matt O'Connor at Lansdowne Road last weekend.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

MATT O’CONNOR HAS admitted he is feeling the natural pressure of being Leinster’s head coach, but has defended his team’s style of play.

The Irish province has been on the receiving end of much criticism, even after last weekend’s Champions Cup win at home to Harlequins left them in contention to secure a place in the knock-out stages of the European competition.

Ahead of tomorrow night’s Pro12 clash with Connacht at the RDS, O’Connor suggested that the perception of Leinster’s campaign so far may be veering towards unfair.

“It’s a different yardstick, I’ll say that. Connacht are a point behind us, they’re having an unbelievable season,” said O’Connor at the RDS this afternoon. “Munster, Ulster, where are they in Europe? Ask the question, but we’re getting beaten up. That’s not our doing.”

Whether it’s fair or not is irrelevant really, we just go about doing what we do. We try and be as good as we can be every week. We don’t go out there to drop a ball, or miss line-outs, or concede penalties.

“We spend the whole week trying to be as good as we can and most of that is in and around playing and scoring tries, because that’s what we want to do. People will write what they write. The expectation is there, rightfully so because of how good a group we’ve got and what we’ve achieved. That’s out of our hands.”

Matt O'Connor O'Connor addressed the criticism of Leinster at the RDS this afternoon. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The vast majority of the negative reaction to Leinster’s form this season has been focused on head coach O’Connor himself, rather than the playing staff. The Australian admitted that he is feeling the pressure, as does any head coach in professional rugby.

“Of course you feel pressure, because that’s the nature of the game,” said O’Connor. “You want to be better, you want to be winning games, you want to be scoring tries. That’s the reality of it. I can’t catch the ball for them, I can only put them in a position to do it.

Mate, you can only do what you do. It doesn’t change our week in relation to the environment. You go about trying to prepare the team as best you can game to game.”

Leinster fans have expressed unhappiness with the province’s style of this season, although injuries and international involvements have meant O’Connor has been denied the opportunity to build combinations within his team.

Regardless, the growing consensus is that Leinster’s on-pitch approach simply doesn’t suit this group of players. O’Connor has defended his side’s tactics, stating that better execution will being to lead to more tries.

Matt O'Connor O'Connor at Leinster training in UCD this week. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“We haven’t been getting over the line as much as we’d like, but I think in the two games against Harlequins we certainly played a lot of ball in hand. We created a hell of a lot of opportunities.

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“We probably weren’t as good at set-piece which didn’t give ourselves the opportunity to execute and capitalise on those opportunities in the right area of the field, but I thought with ball in hand we created a lot of opportunities and did a lot of very good things.

The reality of it is that we’ve used nine centre pairings this year, which is unbelievable.

“That makes it very, very hard to get that connection with your outside guys and what’s going on in front of them. As a result, you probably leave too too many opportunities on the field.

“That’s something we’re working on on the field every day to make better.”

Originally published at 13.02

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