Gaffney eyes home comfort for Leinster

PRIDE, as well as pool points, will be a motivating factor for the reigning European champions when they play host to the Scarlets at the RDS tomorrow.

Leinster’s last Heineken Cup game on home soil was the round one defeat to London Irish back in early October and, as consultant coach Alan Gaffney admits, that is a memory that still rankles.

“Yeah the boys definitely want to perform. I know full well they were very disappointed after the Irish game. That goes without saying. We were particularly disappointed with our performance – not only the result but our performance.

“We’ve got to put on a performance at the weekend, the boys know they do, and that just forms part of the process. We can’t think about the result, we can’t think about anything beyond just getting the process right.

“If we get that right we’ll play the rugby we want to play. It will be conditional obviously upon what Llanelli allow us to do but we’ll go out there in a very positive frame of mind and will want to play some good rugby.”

Popular opinion would have it that Pool Six is now the proverbial two-horse race between the holders and London Irish but Nigel Davies’ side lie just two points behind that pair.

So, while they may have been handed their tails last week, the Welsh region is still very much a player in this equation and all bets would be off were they to secure a win in Dublin.

“Absolutely,” said Gaffney. “I mean, they won’t give up. They won’t lay down at all, they have some very good players and some very, very experienced players at the club.

“I’ve no doubt Simon Easterby, David Lyons etc will be trying to work the oracle this week on Llanelli.”

Like Michael Cheika and man-of-the-match Sean O’Brien after Saturday’s game, Gaffney was in hyper critical mode in reviewing the win at Parc Y Scarlets but they shouldn’t be so hard on themselves.

All four of Leinster’s tries were superbly-executed running plays. Gaffney’s title may be that of consultant coach, but it was his fingerprints that could be found on everything the back line did last weekend. “The finish by Shane Horgan for his try was fantastic and then the second and third tries were very good tries. We should have had the bonus point wrapped up before half-time, but it wasn’t to be, and then we struggled in the third quarter.”

Though the pack can’t be overlooked, last week’s was an astonishing performance from the Leinster back line given all the uncertainty that Jonathan Sexton’s absence had created.

Shaun Berne has had limited time playing at 10 in recent seasons and, prior to last Saturday, the Australian and Eoin Reddan had started just one game together with Leinster – and that was in early September.

“You know, (Shaun) has been maligned over time – he can’t do this and he can’t do that but knowing Shaunie going back a long, long time – probably 10-12 years – I know how skilful a player he is”

The likelihood is that Berne will only get better the more time he has in the box seat and Gaffney believes the same can be said for Reddan who is experiencing something of a cultural shift at his new club.

“Eoin has been working very hard on certain aspects of his game, certain basics which we knew because we obviously play a bit differently to the way Wasps play and the way Redser has been for a number of years.

“Obviously. with the back line we’ve got, we probably want to run the ball a bit more. The service that Redser is giving at the moment is obviously instrumental in us getting that performance.”


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