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08th Nov 2023

“Jacques won’t have that.” – James Downey explains how Nienaber will change Leinster

Niall McIntyre

James Downey expects Jacques Nienaber to place a huge emphasis on defence as he takes over as Leinster coach.

Fresh from guiding the Springboks to their second World Cup in a row, Nienaber is set to link up with Leinster in the coming weeks.

Minus the services of their World Cup stars, Leinster have had an average start to their URC season, losing first time out to Glasgow before defeating the Sharks and Edinburgh in high-scoring games.

The province have fared well in the URC in recent times, winning three of its last four renewals but they have come unstuck in Europe.

Two narrow European Cup final defeats in a row against Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle has un-done much of their good work throughout the last few years and, with Nienaber’s arrival, and his track record, Leinster fans will be hoping he can turn the fine margins in their favour.


Speaking on this week’s episode of House of Rugby, former Leinster and Munster player James Downey feels that Nienaber’s first port-of-call will be to focus on Leinster’s defence.

“Defence wins championships,” says Downey.

“You can have the best attack in the world but if you can keep a team out, it’s priceless.

“And with Jacques coming in, if you look at the Glasgow game in week one, Leinster’s defence was pretty poor, again, against Edinburgh, fine for most of the game but when they make a few changes, Edinburgh come back into it.

“Jacques won’t have that. Defence is an attitude so he’s going to be working on the player’s mindsets, being ruthless out there, not letting teams get over for easy scores.”

Nienaber’s Springboks’ certainly lived up to that mantra in the World Cup, conceding just eight tries throughout the Paris tournament.

“Win by 40 points, that’ what he’s going to want,” says Downey.

“And that can only make this Leinster team strong. Coming into these big game fixtures then that they’ve lost by one score (he’ll change that.)”

Meanwhile, as they await the arrival of Nienaber, former backrow Sean O’Brien is in charge and the Tullow man is adamant that, for the time being, it’s his way rather than the Springboks’ way.

Sean O'Brien

“We are definitely not defending like the Springboks do,” O’Brien said this week.

“That’s been made clear to the lads, I’ve spelt that out.