Let’s keep expectations in check, warns Stuart Lancaster

The past weekend was a golden one for the Irish provinces against their English counterparts, but Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster isn’t getting carried away with talk of a power shift in the Champions Cup.

Let’s keep expectations in check, warns Stuart Lancaster

In addition to Leinster’s impressive triumph at the expense of Exeter, Munster, and Connacht also recorded victories over Leicester and Harlequins respectively.

The ex-England head coach acknowledges that Leinster’s strength in depth has helped to make them a formidable outfit once again, but also remembers how differently the landscape was viewed as recently as 2015.

“Wasn’t the narrative different two years ago, when everyone was saying the English system and the French system was the [best]? I think when I look at Leinster at the moment, the strength in depth they have, and the quality of the young players coming through the programme. There’s no doubt Leinster should be competitive in Europe in my opinion,” Lancaster remarked last night.

“I don’t think there’s a huge problem with the English league at all. It’s one particular weekend when results didn’t go their way. We played Wasps last year in the quarter-final, and we got on top of them, but you respect the quality of the team.

“We beat Exeter this weekend, but equally there were moments in the game where we could have lost that game. I think people are reading far too much into one weekend of results.”

Lancaster was speaking at the Bank of Ireland Leinster Schools Cup draws in Dublin’s Grand Canal Square, where he was joined by Dave Kearney and Dan Leavy.

Both players missed out on selection at Sandy Park on Sunday, although the confirmed absence of Rhys Ruddock with a hamstring injury may well open the door for Leavy.

Leinster are expected to make it four pool wins from four on Saturday, but the backlash they received from Northampton in a similar situation back in 2013 makes Lancaster cautious about the challenge that awaits them.

“I draw back to the Northampton game in 2013, an unbelievable Leinster performance away from home. They lost in the Aviva, and suddenly they were back in the mix. Looking back on it, Leinster got out of the pool, but that one result probably gave them the away game against Toulon.

“Even our draw against Castres last year away from home. It effectively meant we ended up being away to Clermont in the semi-final. Every point counts, and we need to be ready for what I know Exeter will bring. Because I know the team and the coaches well.”

Indeed, while Sunday’s 10-point win (18-8) was regarded as one of Leinster’s finest in recent seasons, Lancaster can still see significant room for improvement in this short turnaround.

“Obviously it was a good performance. Conceding the try still rankles me, and at 8-8 it could have gone in two different directions. We fortunately got control at that point and that try [from Jack Conan] was critical. To go through 44 phases, and the way we controlled the ball in that area of the field, without giving a penalty away.

“Or knocking the ball on in difficult conditions, when you’ve got big defenders coming in hard. We achieved the win by playing a different style to what Leinster have probably been renowned for. That was the pleasing thing.”

LEINSTER JUNIOR SCHOOLS CUP:

Cistercian College Roscrea v Terenure College; Fr Godfrey Qualifier 1 v St Gerard’s, Bray; Gonzaga College v Castleknock College; St Michael’s College v Blackrock College; Clongowes Wood College v Temple Carrig; CUS v Belvedere College; Newbridge College v St Mary’s College; CBC Monkstown Park v Fr Godfrey Qualifier 1.

LEINSTER SENIOR SCHOOLS CUP:

Belvedere College v Gonzaga College; Terenure College v St Michael’s College; Vinnie Murray Qualifier 2 v Cistercian College Roscrea; St Fintan’s HS, Sutton v St Gerard’s, Bray; Blackrock College v Castleknock College; Newbridge College v Presentation College Bray; Clongowes Wood College v Vinnie Murray Qualifier 1; St Mary’s College v St Andrew’s College.

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