Friday, December 05, 2014

Preview : Harlequins v Leinster

Bloodgate, shmoodgate.

It was over 5 years ago, both clubs are completely different outfits now, and most of all, the transgression was punished and at least didn't cost Leinster.

The only ones who can benefit from harping on the incident now are BT Sport as it's bound to provide them with the perfect pre-match montage material (provided Sky cough up the footage that is!).

My gut tells me that this match is there to be won by the side who throws caution to the wind and try something different.   But since the home coach has the willingness but not the resources while it's the other way round for the away one, we should instead prepare ourselves for an 80-minute bosh-fest of Premiership-style rugby.

As Leinster fans, I reckon we need to get used to a few realities.  

1) Matt O'Connor will be our coach at least until the end of this season.  He's officially on a 3-year contract and although that can be re-negotiated I can't see him leaving mid-season.
2) As long as Jimmy Gopperth is fit, O'Connor will select him at 10.  Although it's not a style I particularly like for Leinster, I can't fault a coach for sticking with the methods that he believes in and right now the Kiwi is his man.  Plus, there's the strong possibility that Ian Madigan's future could well be at 12 for Ireland so no harm him seeing action there for his province.
3) Luke Fitzgerald is never certain to start anymore even when he is named in the XV.  

The above three points have been debated ad nauseum in recent months.  People say they want Matt out.  People say they want Gopperth dropped.  People wonder whether Luke will actually play this time.  For me, it's better for our own state of mind if we just accept it ain't gonna change and soldier on!

I could have added a fourth point...our game plan.  One pass, maybe two, back into the forwards, repeat.  That's been our MO under MOC.  And from what I have seen of Quins this season, that is precisely what they will be counting on.

Personally, while I wouldn't want to rule out the inside pass, I think we'd need to go a bit wider against this opposition to make it worthwhile.  Conor O'Shea is no slouch and he'll know exactly where his side's strengths are and how to get the most out of them.  

In Wallace, Robshaw and Easter he has a back row who will tackle until the cows come home and for me anyway, no amount of relentless pounding over 80 minutes is going to stop them, particularly in front of their home crowd.

Having said that, in Sean, Rhys, Jordi and Jamie we have a fair amount of irresistible force should Quins bring an immovable object of a defence so it's not as though we don't have the ammo, I'm just not sure it's all we need to be relying on.

It should be a contest that is decided by how much hay is made from mistakes (which of course means more kicking), and there are definitely players on both sides capable of doing that.  The bookies have us by two points.  I think we might do a couple more than that, but not much more unless Joe Marler's return to the Quins front row does nothing to improve their scrum from last week.

And after our "ugly win" against the Ospreys last weekend, I can imagine the reaction of fans to another one but in this case I think we'd need some context.  

That 6-5 squeaker in 2009 wasn't the only time we've had to claw our way to a result on English soil in recent years...we considered ourselves lucky to come away from Wasps, London Irish, Saracens and Bath with anything at all, and each time it was with "preferred" coaches at the helm.

So for me, four match points and no injuries will do me just fine, and we definitely have the ability to get that job done.

Best of luck to the other provinces this weekend by the way...though possibly Ulster and definitely Connacht might have their Pro12 standing as more of a long-term priority.   Munster should have enough for Clérmont at home though you'd be worried about them in the centre against Fofana & Rougerie.

Meanwhile on the island of Jersey, the Leinster A side continue their quest for a "3-peat" of British & Irish Cup titles.  The Channel Islanders were upset last week by Plymouth and by my calculations any kind of a win for Girvan Dempsey's lads will be enough to secure first place in the pool.  Most interesting name on the A teamsheet is that of Luke McGrath on the bench...I have a feeling he is to be held over for a possible trip up to the Stoop the following day.

So there you have it.  It should be an intriguing, if not always entertaining, weekend of European rugby.  I have a feeling my nerves will be frazzled Sunday from around the 70th minute mark but fingers crossed the result will be the one we want!


HARLEQUINS : 15. Mike Brown 14. Marland Yarde 13. Matt Hopper 12. George Lowe 11. Aseli Tikoirotuma 10. Nick Evans 9. Danny Care
1. Joe Marler>captain 2. Dave Ward 3. Will Collier 4. Charlie Matthews 5. George Robson 6. Luke Wallace 7. Chris Robshaw 8. Nick Easter
16. Joe Gray 17. Mark Lambert 18. Kyle Sinckler 19. Sam Twomey 20. Jack Clifford 21. Karl Dickson 22. Tim Swiel 23. Tom Casson

European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 2
Sunday 7th December 2014, KO 15:15
The Twickenham Stoop, Twickenham
Live on BT Sport
Referee: Jerome Garces
AR1 : Maxime Chalon (Fra)
AR2 : Patrick Pechambert (Fra)
TMO : Philippe Bonhoure (Fra)

Leinster A squad v Jersey (B&I Cup Pool 5, Saturday 3pm at St Peter, Jersey) : 15. Cian Kelleher 14. Sam Coghlan Murray 13. Rory O'Loughlin 12. Tom Daly 11. Adam Byrne 10. Cathal Marsh 9. Nick McCarthy
1. Peter Dooley 2. James Tracy 3. Oisin Heffernan 4. Ross Molony>CAPTAIN 5. Gavin Thornbury 6. Ben Marshall 7. Josh Van Der Flier 8. Jordan Coghlan
16. Sean McCarthy 17. Jeremy Loughman 18. Tadhg Beirne 19. Peadar Timmins 20. Luke McGrath 21. Steve Crosbie 22. Billy Dardis


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019