Analysis: James Lowe has become indispensable and Leinster's ever improving defence
Leinster winger James Lowe notched his 13th and 14th tries in the Blues' 30-22 win over Munster on Saturday and the New Zealander increasingly looks like an immovable part of the European champions backline this season.
Leinster scored 119 tries last season and Lowe accounted for 10 of those scores and he already has four tries in four games to start this season.
The former Chiefs flier's two try brace against Munster highlighted his strength, spatial awareness and his ability to get the ball over the line but he also leads the club in running metres (288), clean breaks (9) and offloads (7).
His ability to break the line is phenomenal but it's also the positions that he puts himself into receive the ball that lead to more opportunities for him and his teammates.
Lowe bagged two tries against Munster at the weekend and it could have easily been three if it were not for a Keith Earls intervention just metres before the line.
Whether you think referee Ben Whitehouse was right or wrong for sin binning Earls, Lowe shows tremendous effort to get himself into a position where he can receive the ball after making the initial break.
He takes the challenge of Earls but readjusts his line multiple times to stay on the shoulder of the ball carrier. He accelerates after evading Earls, decelerates to avoid the swinging legs of Dave Kilcoyne and then changes his line and ultimately puts himself into a position where he can receive the ball again from scrum-half Jamison Gibson-Park.
Later in the half we can see Lowe step in at first-receiver from the line-out and feed Robbie Henshaw with a crash ball back towards the line.
The move is simple, Henshaw takes a hard unders line into the defence while Lowe wraps around the back and looks for the offload.
If Henshaw takes the tackle, Lowe is on hand for the clean out, but once he realises that the Ireland centre has taken the ball forward he immediately accelerates to look for the offload.
Munster centre Dan Goggin acts very quickly to get onto Lowe as soon as he touches the ball, and he does a good job of breaking up the play, but it's the intent to get onto the ball and support the carrier that is telling about Lowe and his style of play.
Leinster have three Anzac (Australia and New Zealand) players - Lowe, Gibson-Park and former Wallabies forward Scott Fardy - with EPCR rules limiting each squad to just a maximum of two 'non-Europeans' in their matchday squad for Champions Cup games.
A number of nations - including South Africa and the Pacific Island countries - are exempt from the rule under the Cotonou Agreement between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific group of States.
An ankle injury to Jamison Gibson-Park may take that decision out of Leinster head coach Leo Cullen's hands for the visit of Wasps on Friday but Lowe's strike rate of 14 tries in 17 games for Leinster should make him a near automatic selection this season after he was omitted from all three of Leinster's Champions Cup knockout stage games last season.
Wasps have averaged 28 points a game this season in the English Premiership and have weapons all over the field with the likes of internationals Juan de Jongh, Elliot Daly and Christian Wade in their backline, but one of the most impressive facets of Leinster's start to this season has been their defence.
The reigning PRO14 and European champions may have shipped 22 points to Munster on Saturday but they were outstanding at times with the likes of Andrew Porter and Jamison Gibson-Park winning turnovers at the breakdown, Rory O'Loughlin shooting out of the line to shut down Andrew Conway and defenders stepping up to cover for each other after a teammate had missed a tackle.
During one particular passage of play, Leinster defended 12 phases on their own line before Whitehouse went back for a penalty advantage but you can see here the excellent job they do at containing Keith Earls with flanker Dan Leavy eventually bringing down the Ireland winger after O'Loughlin, Rhys Ruddock and Porter all missed their previous attempts.
Sean O'Brien immediately tries to contest the ball and Devin Toner and Sean Cronin both show good discipline a phase later to keep their position after Munster scrum-half Alby Mathewson tried to snipe around the ruck.
Cronin eventually forces the turnover but it's an excellent defensive set from Leinster who were also brilliant against Edinburgh at the RDS last month and against Connacht in Galway the weekend before last.
Wasps have been in good form to start the Premiership season but Leinster look to be improving with each passing week and with Scott Fardy, Garry Ringrose, Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong all likely to return to the starting fold this week, the European champions should be set for another very strong showing at the RDS.