Leinster Ready For Double Challenge & Kidney Names His Squad
While everyone is still reeling from the result last weekend, it’s easy to forget that Leinster still have a match left to play this season. Believe it or not, the domestic cup is a title that Leinster haven’t held once during their European reign. Last year a tired Leinster travelled to Thomond Park and got a harsh lesson from Munster that they had maybe partied that little bit too hard before the season concluded; you could nearly see the hangovers hovering over the blue army. The year before, those pesky Ospreys came to the RDS to spoil the party after a Heineken Cup early exit. Now comes 2012 and a repeat of that fixture, are the Ospreys going to do as Munster did and remind the champions that they are in fact human and that the toil of two finals is harder to take than they think?
The simple answer is a resounding no. Last year, Leinster played forty minutes of rugby that was the equivalent of what other lesser teams put into a whole season. Their comeback against Northampton is the stuff of legend and was only possible through each and every player pushing themselves to near supernatural levels of performance. This year, Leinster looked as though they could have played a whole extra eighty minutes. Sure enough they showed the standard levels of fatigue expected from finalists but when you look at Sean Cronin crossing that try line and in fact pretty much the entire bench, they had a whole lot of game left in them. Ospreys are going to be in for a serious test on Sunday.
It was only minutes after the final whistle that Brian O’Driscoll was talking about legacies and dynasties, that Jonathan Sexton was discussing the Rabo final and Isa Nacewa today was putting fears to rest of a repeat of last year’s final fixture, noting that with a Sunday fixture and only today and yesterday for rest, the squad has a whole four days of prep for the climax of the club season. Leinster have their sites on finishing off the season with there being no question of them being the complete package, the unbeatables. The best way for them to do this is with the double, the ultimate act of selfishness, denying their Scottish, Irish and Welsh counterparts of any silverware.
As regards team selection, assuming there is no interference from the IRFU with regard to the summer tour which there shouldn’t be, Schmidt has the relief of having no injury concerns from the final bar the continuing issue with Isaac Boss’ lasting wound from Clermont. For Ospreys, they have the same issue from the last few weeks in that Tommy Bowe is missed as strongly as most teams would miss a player of his calibre. But their demolition of Munster serves as proof that they are more than capable of turning Leinster over. Munster may have allowed the scoreline to flatter somewhat but Ospreys played some beautiful rugby on that day and if they do it again they may be on to something. Then again Leinster showed against Ulster that trying to take them on at their own game can be hazardous, particular with Leinster ability at the breakdown of late. We thought the Heineken was hard to call, this one is even worse to be honest. After their clinical showing on Saturday though, it has to be Leinster win
On the national front, Declan Kidney has named a 29 man squad for the your of New Zealand, with four A. N. Other slots to be filled. There is only three new caps in his squad and whilst any other time this would have me pontificating from on high, for once he has some mild logic in his choices. Ireland sit in a precarious 8th place on the world rankings and that is a terrible place to be in World Cup draw year. Kidney knows that he needs the old reliables to at the very worst secure “dignified losses” as opposed to the hammerings that could be suffered through inexperienced players. Still it would have been nice to see Ian Madigan travel in place of say D’Arcy as a reserve out half/centre, or maybe acknowledging the achievements of Dave Kearney or Craig Gilroy who both played in a Heineken Cup final yet are dumped in favour of Simon Zebo, a deserving player admittedly but arguably second or third to either of the former. And another note, what in God’s name do the players facing the Barbarians who haven’t been picked have to play for, given that they know they won’t travel? It’s all a bit silly really. Understandably it will give the national setup time to get back into the swing of things, and the Baa Baas only really serve as an exhibition game anyways, but it still would have seemed more logical to use this fixture to the advantage of filling one or two more A. N. Other slots as well. It is all too worrying how much Kidney’s mind seems to have been already made up with regard to the touring squad.
Let’s not forget a mention either of the retirement of Denis Leamy who will wrap up his career come the conclusion of this season due to a persistent injury? Though he was prone to dishing out the odd too many soft penalties to oppositions, he was a servant in both the red and green and his brute force and effect pushing of every rule in the book will be missed.