‘I still think there is another gear in us we can go to’ – Ryan

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby - JOHN O’SUL­LI­VAN at the Aviva Sta­dium

Le­in­ster’s place in the Cham­pion’s Cup fi­nal in Bil­bao next month is the end prod­uct of a process that was run on the twin track ap­proach of a macro and mi­cro fo­cus on the rugby en­vi­ron­ment within the club.

Leo Cullen touched upon it when asked about whether pos­i­tive Euro­pean ex­pe­ri­ences, and specif­i­cally, the knowl­edge gleaned from win­ning the tro­phy makes it eas­ier to repli­cate the feat. Cullen cap­tained Le­in­ster to their three tri­umphs in 2009, 2011 and 2012 and now has taken them to a first fi­nal as head coach.

Hav­ing ini­tially smiled it was eas­ier phys­i­cally to be a coach and men­tally to be a player he of­fered an over­view to the ini­tial soul search­ing and then the recog­ni­tion of a chang­ing Euro­pean rugby en­vi­ron­ment that ne­ces­si­tated some al­ter­ations in Le­in­ster if they were to chal­lenge for sil­ver­ware again.

“It (ex­pe­ri­ence on its own) hasn’t served us great in the last four or five years. There is a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence the group can draw on, cer­tain char­ac­ters in the group at least. When Le­in­ster were win­ning tro­phies, the land­scape was com­pletely dif­fer­ent in terms of some of the teams that have (now) emerged; Sara­cens and Rac­ing.

“We had to re­think a lot of the things that we were do­ing. It clearly wasn’t good enough for us so we had to get back to the draw­ing board and work in­cred­i­bly hard. Ul­ti­mately, it will be good for the club be­cause it’s cer­tainly had to fo­cus a lot of minds for us to im­prove and get bet­ter. It’s nice to be back at this stage again.

“As Rob (Kear­ney) said, know­ing what that is like (to win tro­phies) just makes you want it again and again and again. The group, the ex­pe­ri­ences they’ve had com­ing off the back of the Six Na­tions just makes them want to do it again. It’s an amaz­ing tour­na­ment. The crowd was amaz­ing. What it means to the pub­lic is great and the play­ers re­ally feed off that.”

Game­plan

The mi­cro side is a spe­cific game­plan for coaches and play­ers ger­mane to each match. Cullen and his fel­low coaches, Stu­art Lan­caster, Gir­van Dempsey and John Fog­a­rty picked a doozey to pick apart the Scar­lets. Le­in­ster’s top car­rier (16) and joint high­est tack­ler (12) James Ryan ex­plained: “I think for large parts of the game we re­ally de­liv­ered what we spoke about, we wanted our for­wards get­ting around the cor­ner, giv­ing us good gain­lines and giv­ing good ball for the backs to use. I still think there is another gear in us that we can go to: so plenty to work on and plenty to plenty to look at.”

Hav­ing bat­ted away a men­tion of his con­tin­ued un­beaten run of matches as a se­nior player he was equally mod­est when dis­cussing the try he scored to set Le­in­ster on their way. “To be hon­est I think that try be­longs to Church (Cian Healy) and Jordi (Mur­phy), they car­ried me over the line.”

It’s a fa­mil­iar re­frain amongst the team, the col­lec­tive mat­ters more than any per­sonal con­sid­er­a­tions. Man-of-the-match Scott Fardy, another try scorer said: “It’s ex­cit­ing to be a part of when you are play­ing with guys who have so much tal­ent now never mind what they are go­ing to be like in the fu­ture. I’m en­joy­ing it; it’s a lot of fun. I thought the boys put in a great shift.”

Garry Rin­grose paid trib­ute to the “fan­tas­tic” work of pack be­fore adding: “My­self and James (Ryan) and a good few of the other young lads are in­cred­i­bly lucky to be sur­rounded by the likes of Isa (Nacewa), Rob (Kear­ney), Johnny (Sex­ton), the list goes on. We are able to lis­ten to those key mes­sages.”

And per­haps the ul­ti­mate act of self­less­ness can be found in the words of Jami­son Gib­son-Park, who had a fine game deputis­ing for the in­jured Luke McGrath: “I feel for him (McGrath) as he would love to be out there but we’ve got him another game and I’d imag­ine he’ll be back for the big one. I was out there try­ing to do my best for the team. I’m very happy with how (it) went. I’m pretty happy for the whole team.”

‘‘ It’s ex­cit­ing to be a part of when you are play­ing with guys who have so much tal­ent now never mind what they are go­ing to be like in the fu­ture

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