OPINION: Leinster's senior stars should carry the can for Champions Cup failings 7 years ago

OPINION: Leinster's senior stars should carry the can for Champions Cup failings

Yawning defensive gaps and basic errors one week, a creaking scrum and poor decision making the next. Off the boil in both matches.

Leinster fans hoping the World Cup hangover would be shrugged off with an Alka Selzer, splash of water and two Champions Cup victories have been sorely disappointed.


Here we are in late November and Leinster are on the brink of an exit from Europe's elite competition.

They were shell-shocked by Wasps at the RDS and could have little complaints about their 19-16 failure against a decent Bath side.

Some 35,000 people [including season ticket holders] have secured their seats for Leinster's pre-Christmas tilt with Toulon at the Aviva Stadium. The reigning champions have also lost to Wasps so they will come to Dublin with most of their biggest guns.

The make-up of the Leinster XV may include a mix of senior stars and talented but unproven - as of yet - prospects.


Were Leinster to lose the first half of their Toulon double-header, that may not be such a bad thing.

Much of the criticism for Leinster's failings have centred on Leo Cullen and his newly assembled coaching staff. While Leinster continued to lack a discernible, cutting edge game-plan - last witnessed under Joe Schmidt in 2013 - the former lock should be cut a considerable amount of slack.

Leo Cullen speaks to the media after the game 21/11/2015

The past six months has seen Leinster haemorrhage more cup-winning experience. Gordon D'Arcy, Shane Jennings and Kevin McLaughlin are all retired and Kane Douglas looked no real loss until he proved world-class for Australia at the World Cup.


In return, Cullen promoted from Leinster's academy, brought back Johnny Sexton [a boon] and welcomed Isa Nacewa after his two years as a former rugby player. Doughty Hayden Triggs was recommended by Nacewa and arrived over from Auckland Blues to bulk up the second row.

This season would be left in the hands of the established internationals, whenever they got back from the World Cup, and the next generation.

The up-and-comers - Luke McGrath, James Tracy, Josh van der Flier and Garry Ringrose - got their chance in the Guinness PRO12 but were sent to the sidelines, and beyond, for the Wasps game. It was only after that 33-6 loss, some more injuries and a poor first half against Bath that they got another look-in.

When they did, each accounted for himself well. Tracy coughed up a line-out but Devin Toner allowed Bath to encroach for it.


It is hard to pick one senior player that excelled in either of the two European defeats. Ian Madigan did a decent job at full-back in the Wasps game and Sean Cronin was good against Bath.

Cian Healy and Mike Ross got a chasing by their opposite numbers in the Bath scrum. Jack McGrath and Marty Moore replaced them after 50 minutes but did not fare much better. The likes of Jamie Heaslip and Jordi Murphy have failed to impose themselves - much like Bath's Francois Louw did - in either match.

Triggs attempted four tackles against Wasps and missed them all. Luke Fitzgerald landed seven tackles against Bath but missed six.

Over the two games, Leinster's players missed 45 tackles out of 190 attempted - 24%. Nowhere near good enough.

Jonathan Sexton dejected 21/11/2015


Johnny Sexton stepped up for a 56-metre penalty in the final minutes against Bath. Admirable but misguided. It is a long time since Sexton knocked over a monster kick in a big game. Someone should have a word.

Last season, as the PRO12 knock-out stages went a begging, Sean O'Brien was critical of the next generation of Leinster players coming through. When it was time for them to step up, he argued, some faltered.

It was tough love but something O'Brien would have received from the likes of Cullen, Shane Jennings and Brian O'Driscoll when he was breaking through.

The same blunt critique applies to the faltering senior stars.

They have to carry the can and it is their lot to make Leinster a team to fear again.