I’m not exactly sure what the online equivalent of “biting your tongue” is, but I have been doing a lot of it this season particularly after Leinster matches.
All it takes is a hint of something negative in our display and you see comments which amount to “Leo has to go”. Luckily there’s enough time between the reply I want to give forming in my head and my actually pressing “enter” on the keyboard after typing it out for me to realise comments like those aren’t worth the energy.
Of course we were all negative after the Wasps howler-fest, but you can’t make that a template for the way this season has gone overall, unless of course you really want to.
Those accentuating the negative need only look to our last visit to Scotstoun to see what has led us to this point. Our match against Glasgow on opening day was Sky’s first live Pro12 broadcast and we were beginning our quest for a three-in-a-row of titles.
Yet before you could hum a few bars of “We Are The Champions”, Glasgow were 19-0 up and while we fought back to lose by “just” 2 points, the performance had the “Matt Out” train, which had already left the station, gaining momentum and we all remember how things went after that. Well if there exists such a train for Leo, I’m pulling the emergency cord.
Perhaps our European campaign never got out of the gate but can we really conclude the coach has to go? If that’s the case, we do so while ignoring a Pro12 record of 6 wins and 2 losses which no team on the continent would sneeze at.
That said, we could have a better idea where we stand after the next three matches...Glasgow away, Munster away and table-topping Connacht at home. But one thing is for sure - there has been plenty of evidence that the team is looking to play in a way much closer to what’s expected from the RDS faithful and if we tag the coach with the negatives we must do the same with the positives.
Despite the forced absentees, it’s a very strong lineup, particularly in the back line.
Take Ian Madigan with his fizzing passes, Luke Fitzgerald with his mesmerizing step and Ben Te’o with his no-nonsense bosh and you have a combo with seemingly endless attacking possibilities. And perhaps Rob Kearney hasn’t exactly been setting the world alight of late but along with his brother and Zane Kirchner they form a back three which any team in the league would be proud to boast.
Ringrose on the bench again? I’m torn on this one. I am very keen to see him play, though not on the wing - his future is at 13 and if he’s to play a part, it should be there IMO. But having said that I like the look of this centre pairing as it is, so having him on the bench is certainly better than leaving him out altogether, which I maintain is what would have happened had he been at this age in seasons gone by.
Whatever the makeup of our backline, they’ll need a steady supply of ball. Eoin Reddan can keep the tempo going though I’m not sure if that can be for 80 minutes. Our back row has a strong “next generation” look about it with Rhys Ruddock the senior player, Josh van der Flier more than worthy of another start and Jordi Murphy keen to put a run of average form behind him.
The set pieces were certainly a lot better last week, but then again it was against a team where our players would have trained a lot with with many of theirs...this could well be a sterner test.
Cian Healy is another on a journey to find his way back to his best form and this seems to be a perfect opportunity for him to make a statement. I’m not sure he needs barnstorming runs to prove himself, however. Keeping his side of the scrum steady and not missing any tackles would be a good shift for me.
And knowing the way Glasgow play, our entire matchday 23 will need to make every tackle count. They won’t think twice about rolling through 20+ phases if that’s what it will take to breach our goal line defences - plus they’ve one of the game’s most innovative offloaders in Leone Nakarawa. But we do have the best defence in the league (on pts conceded anyway) so it promises to be a fascinating matchup.
Bookies have the home side by 4 and that is certainly a fair shout, and for once this week my prediction concurs. I think we can win, but I reckon we’ll need to strike early to do it which definitely won’t be easy. JLP
UPDATE - Saturday morning - As Steve Denny rightly points out in his comment, the weather in Glasgow promises to be as “inclement” as it was when we played there back in 2012, a 6-0 Leinster victory which produced the award-winning photo below. Whatever the weather, I’d definitely take a repeat scoreline all things considered!
GLASGOW : 15 Hogg 14 Naiyaravoro 13 Dunbar 12 Horne 11 Seymour 10 Weir 9 Blair
1 Grant 2 Malcolm 3 Puafisi 4 Nakarawa 5 Gray (c) 6 Strauss 7 Favaro 8 Ashe
16 Mamukashvili 17 Yanuyanutawa 18 Fagerson 19 Swinson 20 Harley 21 Price 22 Russell 23 Lamont