Before kick-starting their Pool 2 campaign in the newly-formed European Rugby Champions Cup, this Saturday’s trip to Italy for a Pro12 encounter against Zebre presents Leinster with an ideal opportunity to bounce back from their disappointing Aviva Stadium defeat to Munster.
With three losses from their opening five league outings, the title holders can ill-afford to slip up at Stadio XXV Aprile this weekend, and speaking at the launch of National Science Week in The Cliff Townhouse yesterday, Blues captain Jamie Heaslip emphasised the need to start producing 80-minute performances.
“Obviously we want to be playing well going into Europe, and I think we have shown a lot of good patches. I don’t think we’ve shown an 80-minute performance. I think if you want go far in that competition you’ve got to be capable of putting out 80-minute performances,” Heaslip stated.
In the days following the reversal to their arch-rivals, Heaslip revealed the coaches and players have examined the faults that contributed to their first home defeat in close to 10 months, but insisted the focus has now shifted to the challenge of Zebre.
“There were some good aspects [against Munster], not too many in the first half, but there were some in the second half. It’s the team that’s always going to go forward that will eventually get over the try-line, which they did.”
While Leinster’s form thus far has been patchy, it has not been helped by a litany of injuries. A number of players — including Zane Kirchner and Jack McGrath — are set to return on Saturday, and even though some key figures are long-term absentees, Heaslip sees it as a great chance for others to step up to the plate.
“We have a lot of injuries. I was saying at the launch on Monday that we have so many injuries that we could put together a pretty good starting 15 of injured players. But it’s part and parcel of the game. Opportunities come in different ways for guys — unfortunately, through injury when guys force their way in. It’s up to guys to take them.
“It’s up to lads to step up to the plate and take it because I keep saying it, on average, we use 48 players a year between both competitions with Leinster.
“I know from experience that you need a strong squad — a big club effort to really kick through.”
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