Leinster’s backrow depth is the envy of Europe; a theme so often trotted out it has become a cliché. However, there is more truth than ever to the sentiment.
Leinster traditionally use their big guns for the Champions Cup and tougher league games. This means limited exposure to top-level play for the “depth players”. This year, a Lions tour, Ireland duty and injury have provided a solid run of games for others to shine. Jamie Heaslip, Rhys Ruddock and Sean O’Brien have been unavailable for much of the season. But there was no panic when Leinster rolled into the final two Champions Cup group games without them.
Jack Conan snatched an extended run at Number 8. And with it, he has added consistency and subtlety to his obvious power. He is now a legitimate starting option for Ireland. On the flanks; Jordi Murphy, Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy have shared duties among them. Jordi Murphy is a real Swiss army knife player. Comfortable at 6, 7 or 8 he provides invaluable flexibility. He will be a loss as he moves to Ulster next year. But, the extended game time will be a huge benefit to both Ulster and Ireland. And looking at the bigger picture that can only be good come 2019.
Jordi Murphy is a real Swiss army knife player
Dan Leavy is one of those rare, incomparable athletes that doesn’t have a best position. He just does everything well. A bit like David Wallace in giving you the best qualities of both a 6 and a 7. The outstanding van der Flier plays a role similar to Thierry Dusatoir. His accuracy and effectiveness allow him to make huge numbers of tackles (an eye-popping 34 against Connacht). This frees up others to do the flashier work. Unfortunately, he injured his knee on Ireland duty but will return better than ever.
Coming hot on the heels of all of these players is the next generation; Max Deegan, Josh Murphy, Will Connors and Caelan Doris. Deegan has already shown us that he may be something special. The others will all get their chances in the weeks and months to come. Most impressive is that none of the newcomers is overawed, none have shrunk on the bigger stage. Credit to the players and the coaches who have judged the opportune time to bring them through.
Leinster’s backrow isn’t isn’t going anywhere and if anything that famed depth is getting stronger.
How does this production line of talent in Leinster’s backrow translate to the Irish gameplan? Check it out here for yourself.
Author: Stephen Kavanagh
I love most sports, but rugby is my passion. Having retired from a long and underwhelming rugby career as a too short 2nd row, I can dedicate more of my time to watching and talking (endlessly) about it. I was encouraged to start writing about sport by my wife and friends. I think they had a vain hope that I would write more and talk less, how wrong they were.