Gibbes says Leinster pack need ‘bloody focus’

“A bloody focus” is the phrase Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes uses to describe what his pack need to counter the threat that comes from the Ospreys scrum on Friday.

The Welsh region make a return to the RDS, the venue where they took the Magners League Grand Final last season, brimming with confidence and with little to fear as they continue their progress against Irish sides.

In particular, former All Black Gibbes has noted their revolution in the tight five, an area where they destroyed Munster in the Heineken Cup in another watershed for their continuing development from hyped underachievers to real players in Europe.

There is little doubt another win over Leinster would continue that curve but Gibbes has been keeping an eye on the Ospreys and reckons his charges will not suffer as Munster did.

“I’d hope not,” he said. “I would hope a few lessons have been learned. We’ve had a nice little bit of growth with our scrum this year but every game is a little different. They could come with different tactics. The ref could interpret things a little bit differently.

“They were also able to get back into the (Munster) game through the scrum which seems to have grown another arm and a leg. They seem to have gained real confidence out of it. I’ve certainly taken a clear interest in that. We need to be adaptable but make no bones about it, we need to be bloody focused or we could get embarrassed at home, which wouldn’t be nice.”

Leinster have experienced some pain at the hands of the Ospreys scrum, conceding a penalty try in the clash at Swansea in October. The Welsh region showboated their way to the title in Dublin last year at Michael Cheika’s side’s expense, and as forwards do, Gibbes pinpointed the platform the pack gave the flying Welsh backs.

“We got a few bad injuries. We had to move Richardt (Strauss) over to the side. We didn’t get to show our full wares and the whole year’s work was lost in one 80-minute game. I guess that is frustrating. We didn’t perform the way you need to, to win a Grand Final. And obviously it was massively disappointing for the lads after what they put into it.

“They’re experienced, skilful players. They showed they play pretty expansive, skilful rugby if given time and space and a nice, quality platform. We were pretty ineffective for the crucial part of that game.”

A key factor in the improvement of Leinster’s scrum this campaign has been the rejuvenation of Mike Ross at tight head.

The Cork man spent much of last season on the sidelines, but with Stan Wright suffering an injury that will keep him out until February, Ross has taken his chance.

“Don’t count the minutes, you make the minutes count,” Gibbes said. “I think Rossy has made his minutes count a lot more this year. Stan’s injury has provided a lot of opportunity for Mike this year and he’s a resilient sort of guy.

“He’s added a lot more. Him and (scrum coach) Greg Feek have got along pretty well, he’s used his experience there and I see a few tools that Feeky’s brought and he’s really enjoying his scrummaging stuff and he’s got challenges with other areas of his game as well but we’re seeing improvements there as well.”

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