Facing best structured rugby outfit in Europe is Leinster’s ideal litmus test

Joey Carbery won’t be leaving Leinster anytime soon.

Facing best structured rugby outfit in Europe is Leinster’s ideal litmus test

He moved back to Athy when he was 11 and all he has known is the desire to play for Leinster.

Johnny Sexton is 32 now, Carbery has done the hard yards and served his apprenticeship.

The worst case scenario when he gets up in the morning is that he’s back up to Johnny for Leinster and Ireland. After that, he could have 10 years steering the ship for Leinster.

I got to know him a bit in America last summer. He’s mad keen to learn. Recently he got to sit down in the Shelbourne for a coffee with Dan Carter.

Dan’s been in Dublin at the unbelievably impressive Santry Clinic finalising the rehab on a knee injury.

They had a productive chat but there was no sense of a young man with itchy feet. Leinster’s his home team, that’s what his beliefs are about and that’s what drives him. Life just gets complicated for Joey Carbery if he goes elsewhere.

Then again, that’s easy for me to relate to. I was a one-club man and alternatives didn’t really interest me.

Joey Carbery doesn’t need to move province, and he doesn’t want to. He believes in himself.

I can’t speak for Jordi Murphy. On one level, his Ulster move makes sense. He has hit a wall in his own province and believes his route to the World Cup in 2019 is blocked. But won’t he have to get past the same players to make the flight to Japan in two years?

I always thought it better to test yourself in your own schoolyard first before moving school. That doesn’t mean Jordi Murphy is wrong.

The Carbery and Murphy cases are different. One is leaving, the other staying put. But the end-goal is the same — to positively influence their futures.

Several Champions Cup heavy hitters will look to positively influence their own futures this weekend. The game of the weekend is Leinster’s trip to Exeter, but the big moves could be made in Pool 4, where Munster entertain Leicester and Racing 92 travel down to Castres.

Back-to-back wins against the same opposition this weekend and next could break the pool open.

Travelling to Castres for a Champions Cup game is different for a variety of reasons, but this weekend has a cup final feel to it.

They have found serious form, winning 41-31 down in Toulouse having beaten Toulon the previous week, while Racing’s momentum was checked in the Paris derby last weekend.

During the week, I had to make a presentation at Federation headquarters in Marcoussis for the final part of my coaching exams. It concerned everything from the structure of training sessions to rugby management. Full disclosure. It was back and forth in French with three assessors for an hour. If the defeat to Stade hadn’t left me with a headache, this did.

Preparation for the Stade game had gone well. We were in a rich vein of form and preparation was thorough.

Then Pat Lambie, our out-half, cried off in the warm-up with an abductor problem, and immediately I sensed a group feeling a small bit sorry for itself. There was definitely a change in mood and tempo. Players looked rattled. It was interesting to see.

It isn’t necessary to come off the field every day after training beating yourself up whether it’s been a great session.

You might challenge yourself to do that, but is it realistic? If you are striving to get players to a pitch during the week, where do they find the additional, and necessary, spurt for Saturday night? During the week, achievement in a training session is only as important as feeding into delivery at the weekend.

Otherwise, it serves no purpose. It is all about ‘transfer’ now — how do you transfer to a Saturday what you do in preparation?

Though I am not a head coach, you put yourself in these positions. How would I deliver the briefing before the game? Was it at the right pitch? How do you assess a sub-standard performance and most importantly, how do you correct it?

Racing didn’t do that much wrong last weekend across town. I look at Saracens and see proof that even the best have a blip.

The Racing players — and myself — had a poor 40 minutes against Stade Francais, but it’s important no one here takes that out of context. We need to keep all the things that have gone well.

For Castres tomorrow night, we’ve needed to analyse the Stade game really accurately, and give the proper feedback to the group instead of an instinctive reaction of ‘it’s a loss, we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater’.

It’s not in our pool but I will have one eye on how Saracens bounce back from four successive defeats and the loss of Maro Itoje.

Where are their heads at now? They’ve had a blip but don’t be surprised if they secure a bonus point win against Clermont on Sunday.

The Top 14 champions will be a different proposition at home a week later but every year the club defending the Bouclier suffers, as they say here, from digesting the trophy. Racing found the same last season.

Leinster will get a proper examination of where they’re at from Premiership champions Exeter tomorrow. The Chiefs would expect to win that game, which says plenty about where they are at.

Alongside La Rochelle, Exeter have made more progress in a short space of time than anyone in Europe, but have progressed from the ground up. They are consistent, full of hunger, and extremely well coached by Rob Baxter.

Their ability to play a structured game is on a par to anything in the Champions Cup and their capacity to retain the ball makes them exceptionally organised and really hard to play against.

There’s no marquee signing in Exeter. They play for each other and with a little chip on their shoulder. Both Baxter and Leo Cullen would split the series right now, which would suffice if they could rely on Montpellier not showing up at Scotstoun and doing a number of Glasgow.

Montpellier only have three points (Leinster have 10, Exeter 8), but Vern Cotter and Nathan Hines will know Glasgow well and they have a squad capable of taking 10 points off the Warriors this weekend and next.

Racing failed to handle the speed with which Glasgow operated on their synthetic pitch, and Cotter will recognise that the speed of the Top 14 wouldn’t be anywhere near the speed of the Champions Cup.

I thought Glasgow would beat Leinster and they got smoked, which possibly underlines the fact you can be sitting pretty and unbeaten in the Pro 14, but when the stakes are moved up for Europe, the quality may not be there. Montpellier have to win away tonight, but that pool is pretty much done if Leinster can go to Sandy Park and win.

More in this section