SHANE HORGAN has absolved new coach Joe Schmidt of any blame for Leinster’s poor start to the season and has challenged the team to eradicate the errors that have undermined their Magners League campaign.
The 2009 Heineken Cup champions face an unbeaten and table-topping Munster in the Aviva Stadium on Saturday on the back of three defeats in their first four ‘domestic’ fixtures.
“It’s only the players’ responsibility at the moment,” said Horgan who has started three of the opening fixtures. “You can see it out there. We’re doing the right things in training and now it’s time to move that on and be a lot harder on ourselves. We need to be a bit more physical and not accept the mistakes we have been making because we have been making mistakes and they’ve proven costly (and) we’ve been punished for them. If you make mistakes this weekend we’ll be punished again. That’s the scenario.”
Leinster’s mistakes have filtered into most compartments. Among them have been a raft of missed tackles and Horgan himself held his hand up for one “shocker” last weekend against Edinburgh which cost a try.
“It’s been quite introspective for the last couple of days. Guys are very disappointed at the performance on the weekend. It taints every aspect of your life so there’s a few long faces. It’s important that we brush the weekend’s game (off). We’ve a big challenge at the weekend and we’re looking forward to that.”
Leinster’s stutters have no doubt been caused in some part by the fact that they are operating under a new coaching ticket, one which has its own ideas about how to attack and defend.
Fair to say, too, that Schmidt must still be trying to figure out the vagaries of the IRFU’s rotation policy regarding the country’s senior internationals but his three provincial counterparts are operating under similar straitjackets.
“It’s not the start we would have wanted or expected,” said Horgan. “We’ve tried to analyse where that’s come from and you’ve got to look at a lot of individual errors, you know, and those mistakes are costly.
“Once you eliminate some of those early-season errors then, systems-wise we’re not in bad shape but if individual errors are made, we’re going to pay a heavy toll.”
And so to Ballsbridge this weekend,. and the latest instalment in their mushrooming rivalry with the southern cousins who have shown clear signs of intent already this season.
Munster certainly owe their hosts one. Their last win against Leinster came in Thomond Park back in April of last year. Since then they have been outdone in a memorable European semi-final at Croke Park, beaten 30-0 at the RDS, pipped by a point in Limerick and eliminated from the league play-offs in the RDS.
Horgan is dismissive of their relevance. “You don’t gain much from looking back at those matches against Munster because every time you play them it’s another massive challenge. If you look individually at all those games there was swings in all of them. It’s very fine margins in the games against Munster and I’ve no doubt that’ll be the case again this week.”
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