Thursday, January 31, 2019

Leinster and Ireland's Futures Are Entwined Ahead of This Crunch Year

Heineken Cup and Pro 14 holders Leinster will be hoping to continue as the dominant force in 2019, while the Irish national team will be looking to repeat their prior Grand Slam success and follow that up with a World Cup win. So, just how important is Leinster’s form to subsequent Ireland performances on the world stage?
When it comes to international sports, the performances of certain teams can often have a big impact on the success of their national side and there are few better examples than that of the current Leinster squad.
The squad for Ireland’s first two Six Nations games is made up of 16 Leinster players out of a possible 38 and while the form of Ulster, Munster and Connacht are also important, Leinster have been the clear leaders recently when it comes to providing players for the national team. As such, their great form undoubtedly stands Ireland in excellent stead, especially with the likes of England and Wales strengthening since the 2018 edition of Six Nations.

As you can see from this comparison of Leinster’s Pro 12 performances and Ireland’s Six Nations finishes, the mid-2010s showed a particularly distinguished correlation. [Original content - no source]

Sexton is key to the Six Nations/World Cup double
One recent worry was the injury that Johnny Sexton suffered but thankfully for Ireland, the Leinster man should be back in time to make the impact that world knows he can. While Ireland are talented enough to retain the Six Nations title without Sexton, it is difficult to envisage the Irish winning another Grand Slam – let alone a Six Nations/World Cup double – should he not be at full fitness.
With only three losses to their name so far, to go along with their 16 victories in all competitions, Leinster have been impressive this season, to say the least, and that positive vibe could well carry over into the tough run of Six Nations fixtures. Paddy Power has Ireland as favourites, but the fixture list shows they'll finish with the biggest threat to their Grand Slam – a trip to Wales.
That said, in addition to Sexton, Rob Kearney, Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Sean O’Brien and Devin Toner all boast over 50 caps for Ireland. Further, a range of talented youngsters - Jordan Larmour, for example, is being touted as the future of both Leinster and Ireland only a year on from his international debut - also fuels the imagination for club and country and Irish rugby is undoubtedly in a great place at the moment. The side is boasting a balance between age and experience that has been known to herald many a serial Six Nations winner. The door to untold greatness remains open.

All remains to be seen

Ultimately, the 16 Leinster players are going to have a huge say in what could be the biggest year in the history of Irish rugby. It’s no coincidence that both club and national teams are flying high at the moment and all that could mean something very special when the World Cup final comes around in early November. Until then though, Ireland and Leinster have a lot of work to do - and accepting that the world has seen nothing yet is a great platform on which to build.


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