Oval Digest: Mass Exodus Continues For Leinster, But Some Rabo Consolation
They say all great dynasties must come to an end: China, the British Empire, that crappy 80s American T.V. series…
Leinster have had a period of unparalleled success since exorcising their demons on that glorious Croke Park day in 2009, but the Cheika/Schmidt era of success seems to be turning.
From Leinster’s first choice backline this season, Sexton and Nacewa are definitely gone, while the rumours about O’Driscoll and a possible Munster move for Luke Fitzgerald abound. Along with that, Carr, Conway and Jamie Hagan will all move on, with doubts too over the future of skipper Leo Cullen, loosehead Heinke Van Der Merwe and lock Damien Browne.
It’s trying times for the men in blue, who, despite having one of the best academies in Europe, will find themselves light on bodies if the current trend continues. Signings are needed, and with the signature of a born leader in Mike McCarthy and a proven 10 in Jimmy Gopperth already delivered, one would expect at least two more foreign additions to the squad for next season, including a marquee back.
A period of rebuilding may be on the cards, but exciting talent like McGrath, Moore, Marshall, Ryan, Cooney, Macken and others are on the way up.
Of course, all is not doom and gloom in D4. Leinster faced down a very stubborn and entertaining Glasgow side in the R.D.S. on Saturday night, and, courtesy of some of Ian Madigan brilliance, went top of the Rabo.
Leinster were nowhere near their best, and, truthfully, could easily have lost the game, but a perfect goal kicking performance from Madigan, who sported a questionable haircut, was enough. Madigan will get even more time in the saddle in crucial games in the coming weeks, with Ulster visiting on Holy Saturday, and a European trip to Wasps coming the week after. While the Blackrock man’s kicking from hand may need work, he certainly possesses all the natural skills to be a gun slinging 10, including a speedy pass and brilliant step.
Earlier that evening, Munster recorded a fairly facile victory over a poor Connacht side, who have now not scored a point in an away derby all year. Munster welcomed back the colossus of Paul O’Connell, and the Limerick lock rolled back the years with a fine outing. Others to impress were Dave Kilcoyne, now rivaling Cian Healy for Ireland’s best carrying loosehead, and the excellent Tommy O’Donnell, who will need to step up when Munster visit the Stoop next month.
Connacht, on the other hand, were totally devoid of anyone to attack the line, and they seem to still struggle when Dan Parks has an off day. The one bright spot was the performance of Kieran Marmion, though even he was outshone by his opposite number.
Surprisingly, Ulster went down to an Edinburgh side under new management in the barren cavern of Murrayfield on Friday night, and the form of Paddy Jackson, particularly from tee, must be a worry. Returning to the scene of his 6 Nations nightmare, Jackson again failed to kick his goals. He and Ulster will face up to Madigan’s Leinster side in Dublin next Saturday hoping they can find some cohesiveness ahead of the Heineken Cup.
Leinster v. Ulster is now probably the pick of the Irish derbies, so expect a raucous atmosphere in Dublin on Saturday, and watch out for some heavy hits from both sides. Leinster will welcome back some key players, and will target a big win that would set them up for an assault on the Rabo, while Munster will travel to Glasgow in the hope of recording a win and scraping into fourth before season end.
It’s all to play for in all competitions.
Featured Image ©2012 Ken Bohane, used with permission.