For round two of the Guinness Pro14, Cardiff Blues travel to Dublin on Friday, so to give us his view on Leinster, Tom Coleman, also known as @LeinsterRoyalty, answers a few questions on this week’s opposition.
Looking back, how did 2016/17 go for Leinster?
Overall there was some huge positives, we got back to playing some really exciting and attractive rugby, something that had gone awry under previous coaching set up. We chalked up over 125 tries in both competitions compared to less than 60 the previous year and had a fantastic run in Europe which led to display to be proud of in Lyon in our narrow semi final defeat v Clermont.
The Pro12 ended very disappointingly at home v Scarlets in semi final. Looking back we looked a bit tired after the Six Nations break. During the run-in we just squeezed by Glasgow at home (31-30) and should have lost v Ospreys in Liberty (Biggar missed a pen to win it), should have lost v Cardiff Blues (a butchered try overlap blown late on by Cardiff) and then we lost in Belfast before eventually losing at home to Scarlets. Something for coaches to look at this season.
This is now the third season under head coach Leo Cullen, are Leinster fans still happy with him in charge?
On the whole, yes. He was mature, modest & humble enough to be able to bring in a senior coach like Stuart Lancaster to work with him. Lancaster has made massive impact along side Leo last year highlighted by our attacking play and back competing at top table in Europe.
What are you thoughts on Leinster’s summer recruitment?
Scott Fardy was a top performer with Australia and brings experience and hard edge to our play.
Our other recruit is Chiefs winger James Lowe who has been electric in Super Rugby. It will be very exciting to see him link up with our own guys like Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw.
Where would you say the strengths and weaknesses lie within your squad?
Our strength is usually the depth of squad as we have shown last weekend away against Dragons. We had up to a dozen probable starters missing and still performed at decent level.
With Henshaw and Ringrose out inured it highlights we are bit light in midfield. Nacewa has been covering there pre-season and in Rodney Parade, but we have tougher tasks ahead and that area remains a concern.
Who is your Leinster player to watch this season?
Any rugby fan will be excited to see how James Lowe goes but my player to watch this year is our 21-year-old lock James Ryan. It’s a position we haven’t had great success in developing quality players over the years. Ryan captained the Irish team to the 2016 U20 world cup final and he should see a lot of game time in blue this season partnering Fardy in the second row.
He actually made his pro debut in green this summer before he made his pro debut in blue (came on at Rodney Parade last weekend). The last player to do that was Brian O’Driscoll!
What would a successful 2017/18 season look like for you?
We’ve probably been favourites for the Pro12 title for each of the last three years but have failed to lift the trophy on each of those occasions. Ask any Glasgow, Connacht or Scarlets fan how they feel after seeing their team win the league.
Even though we’ve won it four times it’s still the one we aspire to win every year and this year is no different. Experience tells me that if you’re performing in the Pro14, that form continues into Europe.
What is your score prediction for our game?
With a double header looming in South Africa in rounds three and four we really need a bonus-point win. Cardiff unfortunately have a woeful record v Leinster (sorry Blues fans) but nonetheless you always score a bit at RDS and, as I mentioned earlier, should have won last season in Dublin.
So I’m going for 38-22 win for Leinster.
Thanks again to Tom for this excellent Opposition View, and make sure to get following him on Twitter @LeinsterRoyalty.