Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Can We Take This Laighin Down?

This week I will make some points and observations. I will question why a player or players carry out a certain play, a tackle (or not as the case may be!) or why the coach (and players now) insist on whining and blaming everyone else when the same rules and regimes never affected Cheika or “Saint” Joe?

Well, I watched the Leinster v Glasgow game a couple of times and having seen us win only once in six AND the dire displays in lots of other games, from a purely tactical point it’s this. What is it I don’t understand about tactics? Plays? Defensive positioning? Attacking positioning? Leadership? Vision? and anything else that I’m questioning whether I actually understand rugby at all and I’ll use elements of the Warriors game as an example of what HAS been occurring all season?


1. This is a kick taken from behind a scrum, normally by the scrum-half, in which he turns away from the scrum facing the touchline, and kicks the ball back over the scrum into the clear "box" of space behind the opposition to allow his own team to chase through and regain the ball in undefended territory . Really!! Well I don’t think Reddan understands it OR has he forgotten the basics?? He kicks without looking so is actually blind as to who or what is actually in the “Box” or indeed whether any of his own players are actually capable of getting there!It took him a mere 12 secs on friday to box kick into the centre of the park and a wasted effort. It’s use is effective when you have true flying wingers or inside men. Don’t just do it out of habit.


2. If you are utilising a standard straight line in defence then surely the individual player must “Own” the immediate area all round him? He should know who is either side and I’d opine have a thought of what’s happening either side of the opponent in front. On 7 mins last week, Hogg came storming through on a run and no less than 7 Leinster players were there or there abouts and failed to stop him scoring a try? Jennings just watched him! Whose responsibility is it to be situationally aware. Can you really defend an attacker coming on on a line at speed if you’re totally static? (again, Jordi's try for Leinster is a classic textbook, training ground run. You can see him peel off the lineout and is first into position, he is viewing all around him and positioning himself 10 - 15 meters away. As Redden releases the ball, he commences his run and receives the offload at great speed on an angled running line and is straight through the Glasgow defence. A brilliant bit of vision, positioning and situational awareness).

3. The exam question I would raise to coaches is this, Would you be better off having a mirrored defensive line the same as the attacking team and relying on the defence to ensure they dominate their 360 area and ensure a 100% tackle rate?


4. On 11> mins, Glasgow have a lineout and McCarthy pulls a player down. Poor timing to me but it becomes a moot point when he whines to Nigel Owens for the 3rd time in the game. STOP IT!! It smacks of a negative trait….it smacks of’s something Eoin Reddan does (apart from feeding at 45%) the whole game? GET ON WITH IT!!!

5. Why is it Hookers have difficulties getting darts straight? How can you overthrow so regularly? How can you fail to get the ball to a given player based upon the play / call? Theres only a few calls you can get. Front...Middle….Back…OR occasionally a (planned AND practised) overthrow to a running player in which case the front 4 are peeling off extremely fast and in direct support?

6. On 20> mins, Leinsters lineout goes into a maul. Well I say maul. It was slow, poorly put together, ambling along. There was no zip, snap, speed, passion or impetus. By the time Leinster players eventually received their invite to get in on the act, Glasgow were pushing them back but with only 3 - 4 players? Glasgow on the other hand were sublime. Their lineout into maul was slick, players in position as easily as a zip fastens and it was done at speed and with momentum. GET THERE! GET THERE QUICKLY! GET INTO POSITION ASAP! BUILD UP SPEED! BUILD MOMENTUM! DRIVE ON! DRIVE OVER! Bottom line is if you don’t, then the rolling maul stalls and the ref will shout “Use it” and all that energy and effort has been wasted.


7.Why can’t Hookers hook anymore? We have become so pre-occupied with an 8 man shove, that the basics aren’t there now. What happens instead is a bad feed by the scrum half. Everyone is doing it. Reddan is dire. 45% feeds right under the nose of the ref. Scrum Halfs feed in straight! Hookers hook! Props support the Hooker.I don’t want to see a Hooker hoofing up the pitch, making metre after metre if he cannot hook or throw a straight dart in a lineout??


8.By 27 mins Leinster had 57% of possession yet had created nothing, looked completely outclassed, outplayed and failed to turn this possession into tangible pointage? I get hugely frustrated with 10, 15, 20 phases of play that are merely repetitive, soul destroying and from a forwards perspective, totally knackering. Wasted energy for no gain?

9.Where are we going wrong. Where and who is responsible for looking at the opportunities for overlap, to exploit a weak defensive line? Glasgow on 73 minutes are camped on our line under the posts. Their scrum half comes in and as he does so, he looks up and sees the potential on the open side of play where they have an overlap of at least 2 players. Leinster bar 1 player are all focused on the melee going on at the try line. Who is responsible in the Leinster defensive play for ensuring there is enough coverage across the entire line? If Warriors have created an overlap, why haven’t we picked up and put a counter measure in place? It was a gifted, sloppy try to give away and it cost us those badly needed 2 points and the game!


10.Hybrid rugby works BUT only in an attacking style of team with an attacking minded coach. It develops best when you give the players the belief that going forward and having the ability to adapt THEIR game as the game itself develops on the park is the correct mindset. The defensive approach at Leinster isn’t working and cannot work. You will only ever succeed when you allow players to run onto balls at speed, cut their own lines of attack, have a great understanding of multi-positioning and each others roles and above all build individual players into a team.


11.The last 5 minutes of the game saw us with opportunities to win. We had a lineout in their 22 but it was overthrown! We had possession in our own half and gave away an intercepted pass which fortunately was only kicked forward and we saved it! Eventually, it went into the red zone, Ref Nigel shouted twice, “Last play”. The ball came out from a ruck but some 6 Leinster players are all static still in a defensive straight formation. They are therefore too slow to react, no advancement at speed, no impetus. I genuinely felt they were just playing the game out. Finally a Leinster player is penalised for going off his feet whilst we are in possession……. Sloppy. THE GAME ISN’T OVER TILL THE BIG FELLA STOPS SHOUTING AT THE TV!!!!!!!!!! Leinster for me were the Man Utd of rugby. Always coming back in the dying moments and getting something from the game. We are looking tired now and looking for the end to come.


12.I’m therefore left believing that the thoughts I have written all season are the same. MO’C is a good coach, a No 2 somewhere but not suited as a No 1 (currently) and certainly not at Leinster. The coaching staff are inexperienced and Leo needs to be developing his coaching capabilities with the Academy or akin level. Senior teams need seasoned coaches who have a proven track record, who can adapt to changes and above all build those world class and international class individuals into a team. Girv the Swerve now needs to be released into the foray of senior team coaching. perhaps under Conor O’Shea as Director of Rugby? Perhaps as I wrote back in Oct 14, there’s a case for the Si n Girv Show putting Dempsey and Simon Easterby together as a coaching team?  

13.There is a lack of leadership. A lack of positivity coming out from the club, the players, the coach especially. I’m tired of hearing MO’C complaining that everything is somebody elses problem from the refs to the IRFU Player Management system. Cheika & “Saint” Joe managed successfully!?! This IS affecting the team. Who is the leader in the backs? Who is charged with controlling the situation and changing / adapting plays. Heaslip can’t do that. He’s stuck supporting 7 other players in the pack?


14. Is there a conclusion or am I just a grumpy old sod who is frustrated with both Leinsters defensive style of hybrid rugby OR is there a wider malaise coming into the club? One which has become comfortable with where we were! The successes we had! The thought that we might go backwards never entering peoples minds? No Plan B if it did? I’m very buoyed by the fantastic games in recent weeks in the 6 Nations et al and the capability of playing all out, open, attacking, flair filled rugby when the stakes are as high as you’re likely to get it. If it can be done when push comes to shove, the do it all the time?

15. Bottom line overall at Leinster Rugby is there is a total lack of creativity, flair, vision and flexibility AS A TEAM COLLECTIVE. Does that mean we don’t have the players with these abilities? Hell yes we do and huge amounts of talent. Are they still hungry for it? The thirst for victory? For trophies, medals and glory? Some yes but perhaps some have become comfortable in their existence.

16. A similar piece I wrote a few weeks ago on the "Leinster Situation" remains extant. We need a thorough Root & Branch review of all aspects at the club. Is that ok for me to say that without knowing actually what is going on in the corridors of power? Yes, because in that piece previously I wrote that even if we did manage to win the Pro 12 and / or the Champions Cup, it would be foolhardy to think or believe there were NO issues at Leinster. No visible 3 - 5 year plan (that I can find), no information on next season's coaching and playing staff at all levels so one must assume that we’ll write the season off (if we lose) as a bad season and if we do win, we’ll all say it was a temporary thing, injuries, player availability, new coaching team, hell all’s well cos we’ve won!! Well you’d be wrong.


17. ……...And here’s where I will get most of the readers hackles up! I believe not only will Leinster NOT make the playoffs, it’ll be a good thing. We don’t deserve to be there! We haven’t earned our way there on our OWN merits! If we do get there in these last 4 games, it will ONLY be because others above us have dropped points (as well as us winning every game with a BP win!). It would be good for the Province to accept we have issues, take stock, bring in  fresh players, retire a few of the old ones, look forward and start afresh.

18.As for the European Champions Cup. That’s different. Cup games are always something that can change on the day. It brings about a different mindset to the game and to the players, a different psyche. If Leinster can lift themselves for each game, I believe a final could be in the offing but again it will still mean that we have the same issues.

19.So in summary, 

a. Lets get back to basics on playing (kicking, scrums, lineouts, mauls, scrums, defence and offence), tactics, expectations and responsibilities

b. Conduct a Root & Branch review at Leinster Rugby at all levels then articulate that out to all

c. Move on some of the old guard and bring in a group of new players, hungry for achievement

d. Let’s bring in a coaching team that understands the requirements and mindset at Leinster Rugby and have the requisite experience to achieve that.

e. We need to rebuild the individual players at Leinster Rugby back into a winning TEAM!

The Big Fella

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management at Digital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!) 


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