The Guinness Pro14 returns to our lives this week which means team announcements, match previews, moaning about the referees and 10 months of the Cardiff Blues hope killing you.
Most importantly though, the Opposition View is back!
This week it comes to you courtesy of the return to the site of Leinster fan Tom (@LeinsterRoyalty) who runs us through last season’s Pro14 and Heineken Cup champions, what they will bring this season and his thoughts on Friday’s match.
Obviously last season went as well as it could have for Leinster, are you confident that you will see a repeat?
Experience over the years leaves me never confident but we have the squad to make a challenge on both fronts. The beauty about Europe is that the odd slip up and you are down at seed eight to three and you end up in a semi final away at Racing or Saracens or Toulon etc then the task becomes infinitely more difficult.
Pro14 is (hopefully) getting that way too. We know we can’t slip up in our conference with Scarlets there or we could end up travelling to Munster for a semi final. It’s a fine line between success and failure if you get the odd blip at the wrong time.
The Joey Carbery saga dominated the off season, does his departure leave Leinster light at 10? Are there any weaknesses at all in the squad?
In short yes it does especially when Johnny Sexton will be looking at 4 fronts this season (Europe, Pro14, Six Nations and Rugby World Cup).
I’m sure we’ll get little sympathy just having Sexton and the hugely improved Ross Byrne at who carried most of the load in Pro14 last and will do again next year, but when the double is your target you need that depth.
Carberry is gone, Cathal Marsh heading stateside and we’ve got young lads like Ciaran Frawley and Harry Byrne (brother of Ross) coming through but untested. In our two pre-season matches we had to play Noel Reid and Tom Daly, both centres, at 10. So it is a concern.
There wasn’t a huge amount of other transfer activity in Dublin, but what there was is quite significant. How much of a loss is Isa Nacewa, but how excited are you by the arrival of Joe Tomane?
Nacewa is a big loss in terms of captaincy and leadership around the camp especially during test windows where he is the inspiration for the younger guys.
Quietly excited about Tomane. I had seen him four times live in Montpellier colours as we had them twice in Europe and what’s noticeable in pre-season is how lean and slim he looks compared to his time in France. He’s got a good offload game and will be valuable as he can play centre and wing.
Leinster earned a reputation, perhaps unfairly, as quite a one dimensional attritional side last season. Is Felipe Contepomi’s appointment a move to bring more flair to your game?
Probably the Champions Cup Final still forefront in everyone’s mind how attritional the game was and it wasn’t the prettiest for the neutral
We are coming off a season where we scored 90 tries in Pro14 and 30 in Europe though. I think Felipe will try to bring a different style to how those tries are scored. Stuart Lancaster has a heavy influence on our back play so it will be interesting to see how that dynamic works between him and Felipe.
You selected James Ryan as the player to watch last season and he went on to have an outstanding campaign. Which Leinster player are we keeping an eye on this season?
Not sure I’ll get a repeat on the success of this prediction. Ryan had phenomenal season winning all before him only losing one of the Australia tests in the summer.
I think the one to watch this year will be Caelan Doris who plays number eight. I think due to it being World Cup year he should get plenty of opportunities to play even in a highly competitive back row. Speaking purely as a fan this guy has it all. A super footballer really excited to see what he can bring to Leinster this year.
What are your thoughts on Cardiff Blues ahead of the new season?
I think they have serious chance to target Pro14 playoffs this year. Arhip and Manoa are great additions and the return to Heineken Cup should get buzz and big crowds there.
From a personal point of view I really hope it goes well for Mulvihill as he coached at my old club in early 2000s, Navan RFC.
Finally, score prediction for Friday?
Not wanting to remind Cardiff fans of your record against Leinster (1 win in 22 I think)…I genuinely think Cardiff will stop the rot on Friday with a win.
22-16 win for home team.
Lastly all the best to Cardiff for upcoming season.
Thanks to Tom for his insight and good luck to Leinster too, although, from all of Europe, not too much luck!