Friday, November 20, 2015

Preview : Bath v Leinster

Lein team v bath

logo post blue“Must be delivered to the opposing club and media at least 1 hr before kick-off and should not vary from Official Team Announcement made on Friday prior to game”

What you see above is exactly what it says at the top of the page on the official match day team sheet for European Rugby Champions Cup matches nowadays.  I find it interesting that they have the “1 hr before kick-off” bit underlined and in bold font, because for me what stands out most of all from the text is the word “should”.

That “should” as opposed to “must” makes a massive difference.  A team gets announced on a Friday and the media both mainstream and social gets busy previewing what will happen when the two matchday 23s come together.  But the “should” offers wiggle room and Leinster, arguably more than most, tend to take full advantage.

Even without what happened last Sunday, any team would be happy to have names like Nacewa, Te’o and Fitzgerald back in their lineup.  I’m just not entirely sure they will all be in our lineup when the match eventually kicks off at the Rec.  And that’s not a criticism either - that word “should” means that if there are players you want in your lineup and you can get away with naming them on the Friday, with alternatives ready in case they can’t make it, then well and good.

Let’s just say I’d be wary trying to write a preview based on the 23 as they were announced this lunchtime.  But having said that, the way Leinster’s European campaign stands right now I’m not so sure it  matters who actually fills the shirts.

Make no mistake - Bath are favourites for this game, and they probably would have been even without last weekend’s result.  They’re on their home turf, they play a good brand of rugby, they have a canny coach at the helm and apart from all the Burgess hullabaloo they have made some good additions to their squad. 

These are all things over which Leinster have no control.  And in many ways there is a certain symmetry in the fact that it is Bath we play at this stage of the tournament.  It has oft been said that if you lose your first two European matches your chances are gone, yet only last season Mike Ford’s men defied that notion and went from 0 and 2 to very nearly reaching to the semifinals, only just falling short against, ironically, us.

My point is that even with a “back to back” series against Toulon on the horizon, defeat tomorrow wouldn’t be completely the end of the world for Leo Cullen’s men, though that statement comes with one important caveat.

A lot of household names had a day at the office they will want to forget last Sunday.  They have been named on this site so there’s no need to call them out again.  Whatever way the squad is configured, it’s of paramount importance to the general confidence of the Leinster faithful that they at very least put in a display that’s worthy of the three stars on the jersey.

Personally, I’m not looking for specific tactics, I’m not looking for specific individuals to do specific things, and like I said before, I’m not even necessarily looking for a win, though of course that would be nice.  I just want Bath to know they have been in a game against quality opposition.  That certainly shouldn’t be too much to ask from a team like Leinster.

Now as I type that I cast my mind back to last April and our semifinal v Toulon.  As that kicked off I had a similar sentiment, but then as Gopperth’s drop-goal “missed” and later Habana did what he did to clinch victory, I certainly wasn’t thinking about the bravery of our performance; instead I was thinking how narrowly we missed out on another final.

Still, the contrast between that display in Marseille and our next European one in Ballsbridge is so stark that I feel it is worth renewing my call for at very least a showing of which we we can be proud.

And it’s not as though anyone needs to say that to this group of players.  They all know what is expected of them, and they all know they fell well short of that last Sunday. 

The bookies have Bath by 6.  I have them by 10-12.  It’s up to the boys in blue to prove me wrong.  If we’re to go out of this “pool of death” we have five matches left to show we won’t do it without a fight.  We certainly “should”, if not “must”.

Come on you boys in blue.  JLP

PS In the meantime, if you can’t make it to Donnybrook tonight, check in here from 7pm when we’ll be doing a liveblog of tonight’s British & Irish Cup clash between Leinster A and Moseley.

 

BATH : 15. Anthony Watson 14. Semesa Rokoduguni 13. Ollie Devoto 12. Kyle Eastmond 11. Matt Banahan 10. George Ford 9. Chris Cook

1. Nick Auterac 2. Rob Webber 3. Henry Thomas 4. Dominic Day 5. Dave Attwood 6. Matt Garvey 7. Francois Louw 8. Leroy Houston

Replacements 16. Ross Batty 17. Nathan Catt 18. Max Lahiff 19. Stuart Hooper 20. Alafoti Faosiliva 21. Niko Matawalu 22. Rhys Priestland 23. Tom Homer

 

Rugby Champions Cup 2015/16 Pool 5 Round 1

Saturday, November 21, 2015

At The Rec, 3pm. Live on BT Sport Europe

 

Referee Jerome Garces (France)

Touch Judge 1 Salam Attalah(France)

Touch Judge 2 Laurent Millotte(France)

Fourth Official Greg Macdonald(England)

TMO Bruno Bessot (France)

Citing Commissioner Yves Thieffine (France)

 

Leinster 'A' team v Moseley, Donnybrook Stadium, Friday, 20th November, British & Irish Cup (KO 7:30pm - liveblog onwww.harpinonrugby.net from 7pm)

15. Billy Dardis 14. Cian Kelleher 13. Collie O'Shea 12. Tom Daly 11. Adam Byrne 10. Ross Byrne 9. Charlie Rock

1. Peter Dooley 2. Bryan Byrne 3. Tadhg Furlong 4. Tadhg Beirne 5. Ross Molony 6. Peadar Timmins CAPTAIN 7. Dan Leavy 8. Tony Ryan

Replacements 16. Sean McNulty 17. Royce Burke-Flynn 18. Gavin Thornbury 19. Josh Murphy 20. Joey Carbery 21. Steve Crosbie 22. Mick McGrath

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