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Molony leads drive of Leinster fringe eager for taste of big days ahead

As Benetton visit the RDS the young lock is intent on giving Cullen and Lancaster reason to keep him in mind for next weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final.
Apr 14th 2018, 6:11 AM 4,572 6

IT’S JUST A week out from an enormous European fixture, but in-between matches like today’s visit of Benetton to the RDS (kick-off 19.35, TG4) can feel a world away from the marquee fixtures.

However it is these very games, when motivation must be mined rather than dangled in front, where Leinster’s famed production line get a rigorous testing.

Head coach Leo Cullen has picked an incredibly exciting looking side for the encounter. This is not a matter of keeping everyone in cotton wool – though many do reside there – with a mix of tried and trusted stalwarts, blindingly bright prospects and men on the fringe who will endeavour to make their way into their coach’s thinking for the season-defining matches ahead.

Before the RDS can rise to its feet in expectation for what magic is to come from Joey Carbery or Jordan Larmour, Cullen’s pack must earn their right to weave.

Helping greatly to that end will be Sean O’Brien, in need of some match minutes as he embarks on a second return from injury this year, if he is to see European action next weekend. And ahead of him, Richardt Strauss, Ian Nagle and Ross Molony also have climbing to do to make their way up the depth chart. But nothing changes charts and perceptions like a big performance, well-timed.

Two years ago, Molony was one of those fresh-off-the-line new models of forward and he put in several eye-catching performances as he racked up 21 senior appearances in a terrific second season.

Perhaps it’s the rise of a new machine in James Ryan, a natural leveling off of the improvement curve or just the absence of the element of surprise, but the 23-year-old Molony hasn’t hit the barnstorming levels of impact he would have wanted from this term.

Injuries, of course, haven’t helped him gather pace either.

Ross Molony Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“It’s certainly been an interesting season,” nods Molony as he points to ankle and knee injuries which have kept him off kilter at points in the campaign.

“For me, it’s working on getting my body in the best possible position and make sure when I get the opportunities I put myself in a position to get more.”

At this point of the season, opportunities only come in one size. So a home clash with Benetton (who are in form and chasing a prize of their own) is a platform for players in Molony’s position to jump from off-Broadway Pro14 matches to the glamour of Europe’s final four. Once there, even higher levels can be prised open.

It will have hurt the lock to miss out on the Champions Cup quarter-final, when Cullen and Stuart Lancaster went without second row cover on the bench.

While the recognised three front-line locks – Ryan, Devin Toner and James Fardy – were in the starting line-up, Rhys Ruddock wore the 19 jersey that day and is now again missing through injury. Given O’Brien is back on the scene today, there is no guarantee that Leinster won’t again opt for two replacement flankers come semi-final day.

So motivation won’t be an issue for Molony this evening.

“I have ambitions to go further in my career and get a green jersey at some point. To do that, you have to play in those Champions Cup games because it’s that level, right up there with international level. They’re the sort of games you want to be playing in, so hopefully with the semi-final in mind I’ll give the coaches an opportunity to see what I can do this week and we’ll go again for the semi-final.”

“You kind of have to be (patient), there’s no point getting down and getting pissed off with yourself or anyone around you. You have to keep working through, take the positive side of an injury or not being selected where you can try to get the best out of what you can control.”

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Johnny Sexton and Ross Molony

Patience is a necessity in Leinster and the reward after waiting your turn for action is the prospect of challenging for medals.

Carbery has been the subject of high-profile calls for his displacement to a province with fewer out-half options and Jordi Murphy will improve his Test credentials by starting more regularly with Ulster next season. But most players leave Leinster simply for more provincial-level playing opportunities.

Molony likes the wrestle for jerseys just fine. He’s not ready to take leave of his native province any time soon:

“It’s a competitive environment, you’re always going to have people in your position. You can’t control what coaches [think] or what other people do, all you can do is work on yourself. Just work as hard as you can.

“One thing for me is having the mindset before the game that you want to go out, want to play well, and picture that. For me, let’s say it’s the line-out, I’d have it played out almost, in my head, before it comes to it, so it’s almost second nature when it comes to it.”

“I wouldn’t say you’d be giving yourself a time-frame for it, you’d want to focus on right now. You can’t control what’s going to happen, you have to focus on the moment and try put your hand up.”

“My body’s in a good place, been happy with how things are going in the gym, which previously was holding me back a bit, so yeah I’m happy enough, happy with training.”-

Time to translate that to the field, and the field after that.


15. Jordan Larmour
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Rory O’Loughlin
12. Noel Reid
11. Barry Daly
10. Joey Carbery
9. Jamison Gibson-Park

1. Jack McGrath (captain)
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Andrew Porter
4. Ross Molony
5. Ian Nagle
6. Jordi Murphy
7. Seán O’Brien
8. Max Deegan


16. James Tracy
17. Ed Byrne
18. Michael Bent
19. Mick Kearney
20. Peadar Timmins
21. Nick McCarthy
22. Ross Byrne
23. Adam Byrne

Benetton Treviso:

15. Jayden Hayward
14. Andrea Bronzini
13. Tommaso Iannone
12. Alberto Sgarbi (captain)
11. Monty Ioane
10. Tommaso Allan
9. Tito Tebaldi

1. Federico Zani
2. Luca Bigi
3. Simone Ferrari
4. Marco Lazzaroni
5. Alessandro Zanni
6. Federico Ruzza
7. Sebastian Negri
8. Nasi Manu


16. Engjel Makelara
17. Cherif Traore
18. Tiziano Pasquali
19. Irné Herbst
20. Marco Fuser
21. Dean Budd
22. Ian McKinley
23. Tommaso Benvenuti

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