Rhys Ruddock has declared that Leinster are going to have to show their nasty side on Sunday away to 2013 Top 14 champions Castres at the Stade Pierre Antoine.
Matt O’Connor’s side have had their difficulties this season and their Rugby Champions Cup opener at home to Wasps on Sunday was another mixed bag, even if it ended in victory.
There were encouraging aspects, not least in that of an impressive back-row boasting eye-catching performances from Ruddock, Jamie Heaslip and Dominic Ryan.
It was, overall, a more committed and focused display than managed this season, particularly when paired with the Pro12 displays and ultimate losses to Glasgow and Munster.
“We lacked a little bit of that (nastiness) starting off,” said Ruddock. “We’ve only just started to really implement ourselves in terms of that physicality and nastiness at the weekend, but it still wasn’t quite where we can be.
“It needs to be another step up, but the nastiness is definitely something we’ll be using this week. Just making sure we don’t give anything away easily and try to physically impose ourselves.”
Much of what is holding Leinster back of late seems to stem from their difficulties at the breakdown.
At least the players seemed to think so with Eoin Reddan the latest to point squarely in that direction yesterday.
Ruddock sailed a similar course. “There’s definitely still more to come,” he promised. “The Munster game was disappointing. Although we knew the battle it was going to be and the physicality they were going to bring, we didn’t seem to bring it ourselves. There was definitely increased intensity at the weekend. We seemed to be hitting the breakdown that much harder. It was definitely a step in the right direction.”
It was Heaslip who stood out most, delivering a performance that delivered an impact with ball in hand and metres made as well in the more mundane defensive duties in and around the ruck. Yet, with Heaslip, Ruddock and Ryan all sporting identical headbands, there were times when the trio were difficult to separate as was the case when Ryan was credited by some for a futile chase after Alapati Leiua for Wasps’ first try when it was Ruddock.
“I might take the head-gear off then! Nah, I don’t mind. I managed to claim Dominic Ryan’s try at one point. One of the fans after the game asked was it me who scored the try and I said ‘yes’. You win some, you lose some.”
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