Mixed emotions for O’Shea

Conor O’Shea wasn’t having any of it.

Mixed emotions for O’Shea

Leinster not the team they used to be? Weren’t they the reigning PRO12 champions, he asked? The best team in Europe this last five years?

Well, yes and no. They haven’t been European champions since 2012 and the PRO12 final was seven months ago.

Then again, O’Shea was hardly going to pick holes in his native province. No, it suited the Harlequins coach much better to big up the side they bested for most of the 160 or so minutes this past two weekends.

The Londoners can put Europe to one side now and concentrate on making amends for poor domestic form thus far and secure in the knowledge that they remain top of Pool 2 and in control by dint of scoring two tries in the back-to-backs to Leinster’s one.

“Yeah, and that’s massive. I was saying that to them (in the dressing-room), but they’re inside and they’re gutted. We came here to win. We didn’t come here to be plucky second and we could have (won).”

So did Leinster and, in fairness, they went and grabbed it when they had to. That aside, it was a brutally disappointing night for the home team and supporters and coach Matt O’Connor admitted they simply have to do better.

“We didn’t get to the level we wanted to be at,” admitted the Australian who awaits news on Rhys Ruddock’s shoulder injury. “There were errors and there were opportunities we didn’t take and there were set-piece issues.

“At the end of the day, it was about keeping ourselves alive in the group and we’ve done that. We can improve. We’ve got lots of growth there.”

Whether the next few weeks provide the sort of environment suitable for that remains to be seen.

Leinster welcome Connacht and Ulster to the RDS over the festive period with a trek to Limerick sandwiched in between.

O’Connor used the upcoming period last year to rotate his personnel, but the volume of injuries sustained to date and the side’s fifth-place setting in the PRO12 table may not be a strong enough argument to fend off IRFU demands that certain players be given time off.

“It’s not the ideal time to be growing things,” O’Connor accepted. “It’s going to be pretty gritty. The stakes are very high in those Interpro games. The points are at a premium in the PRO12.

“We’ve got to stay in touch there. It’s probably about making sure the bodies are fit and emotionally in a good place to get the job done over the next three weeks.”

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