Players are judged according to all sorts of criteria by coaches, peers and the general public but, for members of the fourth estate, their ability to talk comes a close second best in terms of importance to anything they can do on the pitch.
Some can be thoughtful and even provocative day to day but prefer to cloak their views in cliché and platitudes. Then there are those like Roy Keane or Ronan O’Gara who rarely hesitate if they feel the need to let fly.
Eoin Reddan fits that bill.
The Leinster scrum-half is a thoughtful interviewee. At times, it can verge on spiky but his words and tone are never less than measured. That made him an especially welcome sight this week as there was much to discuss with Leinster’s European ambitions hanging by a thread and the four provinces all succumbing to defeat in the same weekend for the first time in six years. That latter statistic wasn’t long in spawning inevitable theories about a possible Irish decline after seven years of Heineken Cup dominance — an idea lent backing with English and French clubs winning 11 of 12 games in round four.
“I suppose that is just very Irish of us to think that we are now rubbish after four years of very good success,” said Reddan. “We lost at the weekend because of specific performance-based reasons and maybe some of the English or French teams underperforming.”
Whatever the reasons, the fact is the next six months may have a far bleaker hue for Irish provinces. It will make for an unfamiliar backdrop if, come January’s end, Munster and Leinster are contemplating a second half to a season that consists of PRO12 dates and, perhaps, a few more in the Amlin Challenge Cup.
Reddan, however, has long railed against the notion that the Rabo is merely some manner of holding pen for Irish sides between the real business of Heineken Cup and Test rugby.
“RaboDirect games are massive for individuals in terms of getting selected for bigger games and there is a focus on performances as opposed to outcomes so we have a job to do this week to prepare for Ulster. We have a massive responsibility, the guys who take to the pitch this week, to be very accurate in everything we do and if the result comes with that, then great.”
So, dispense with that presumption that the value of a PRO12 title has suddenly shot up like a four-bed semi in D4 during the Celtic Tiger. For Reddan, that trophy was, is and always will be desirable piece of property, which is hardy surprising given they were defeated in the last two deciders.
“Even if we had won at the weekend it is still a massive goal of ours to win the Rabo. Maybe the fact we lost at the weekend puts a bit more pressure on us to perform this weekend but just in that short-term space.”
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