Leinster angry at five-day turnaround
Video: Gerry Thornley discusses the prospects for Leinster, Ulster, Connacht and Munster
Leinster chief executive Mick Dawson has expressed his province’s anger at being pitted with a five-day turnaround into Friday’s game against the Ospreys at the RDS following Sunday’s win in Castres’ Stade Pierre-Antoine fortress.
Although the Ospreys have been handed with a similar schedule, it is a particular source of annoyance to Dawson that the Pool One teams have been landed with a five-day turnaround whereas other groups have seven or even eight days between their final two group matches.
“We’re playing on a Friday night but we surely could have been accommodated on the Saturday or the Sunday,” said Dawson. “In fairness, although TV pay the money and I understand how the system works, there are 24 teams looking for eight spots and the four teams in our pool have been penalised.”
It also disadvantages Leinster in that Pool One will be the first results in next weekend. “Apart from the fact that from a players’ point of view, with a five-day turnaround, it is very tough on the injuries and knocks and so forth, everybody else has an advantage because they are able to see the table,” said Dawson.
“Everybody else can see how many points you have and how many tries you have, so other teams know what they have to do on Saturday and Sunday, and we don’t have that advantage. If you’re playing with fatigued bodies you sometimes can’t press home your advantage if you need that fourth try or whatever you need to do. It’s not rocket science and it happened to us last year as well; people knew what they had to do.”
A similar scenario panned out on the same weekend last year, when Munster knew that four tries at home to Racing Metro on the final Sunday would ensure they edged out Leinster as the second best runners-up by dint of their superior try tally. “We’re the number one ranked team in Europe, ” Dawson added, “and you wonder where fairness and equity apply. Normally the top seeds in other sports such as tennis are given preferential treatment, and you’d feel that over the last five or six years we’ve certainly earned that ranking as top seeds.” Be that as it may, as Rob Kearney said in the immediate aftermath of Sunday’s win, Leinster cannot afford to use the five-day turnaround as an excuse. “We’re inside there and we got compulsory ice baths and things like that so that is initially what you are doing,” said Luke Fitzgerald subsequently.
“Obviously you’re getting food in trying to replace all the calories that that you burnt in the game and then tonight will obviously be pretty important in terms of sleep and all that sort of stuff. So there are the simple things that you do. I think in fairness they managed us pretty well during the week as well in training and things like that so I’m not worried about the turnaround even though it’s a short one.
An extra day
“Obviously ideally you’d want an extra day just more so for prep than anything else but the guys are usually very organised so no real excuses going into next week.”
It is also something the players are acquainted with. “It’s pretty normal at times. Sometimes you just get stuck with that shorter turnaround and you’ve got to front up. You know yourself guys you go to all the games and there’s lots of teams that have a five-day turnaround even now and then. It’s not ideal but you get on with it and it’s the same for the Ospreys which is good as well.”
“It’s not like sometimes in the league where the other team might have a seven-day turnaround and you’ve a five day turnaround. That’s a bit trickier because they have the extra two days preparation in terms of preparing for you guys as well as having the extra bit of break. But look it’s the same for the Ospreys so there’s no excuse. Both teams will go out Friday and be ready to go I’d say.”
Control over own destiny
Unlike last year, Leinster at least have control over their own destiny, with victory (or even a losing point) sufficient to put them into the quarter-finals, although there is something unnerving about the Ospreys coming to town, not least as they’ve won two league grand finals at the venue in recent times.
“People say bogey and when you hear bogey you’re thinking that’s kind of a team maybe who is underperforming, who is not a good team,” said Fitzgerald. “They’re a very good team, you know. . . . They still have three or four Lions in the squad at the moment still. They’re pretty fantastic. They’re a good team.”