Leinster look for ‘quick fixes’ after 52 missed tackles in Pro14
Noel Reid says side will be working hard to combat issue ahead of Ulster clash
Leinster centre Noel Reid says tackling technique is key when coming up against bigger men. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
More than 50 missed tackles is the sort of thing that just might pique the interest of a head coach. While Leo Cullen sees the glass a great deal more than half full, the constant striving to be better than the last game might have him and his players wondering how their performances could have been had they tightened up in that department.
It is at least a talking point and when Leinster travel to Ulster at the weekend, the home side, mulling over the 41 points that went in at Montpellier, will want to demonstrate to a home crowd that they are not that flaky.
The prospect of the visitors falling off tackles in Kingspan Stadium should excite the home crowd. The coaches and players in Leinster are playing it down as a stutter, something that a recalibration of personal responsibility will fix. Still, 52 is a large number.
“We just had our review there so there’s definitely a few issues,” says Leinster centre Noel Reid. “They’re all pretty quick fixes which is a positive. It’s not a system error just a few defensive errors individually and we’ll be working hard to improve that.”
Reid knows the importance of making the centre solid and depending on what side Ulster put out they could have some big men along their back line. Stuart McCloskey is one. At 6ft 3in and almost 110kg there is additional imperative to get technique and positioning correct.
“Just communication, really, and maybe a little bit of individual technique,” Reid adds. “Missing a one-on-one tackle that you’re in a position to make, maybe it’s keeping your feet moving and stuff like that, sticking the hits.
“Some of the tackles, we’re making good contact but we’re slipping off them. It’s something I have to be good at in the position I’m in. There’s a lot of traffic there so it’s something I definitely work on and am still trying to improve.
“I suppose your technique would have to be on point coming up against bigger men, but it’s about doing your homework on them and picking up the things that they do in games. If he’s carrying, where is he carrying? If he passes, does he pass early or on the line?”
The officer class in Leinster will have mixed feelings about who is and isn’t available for the trip north. Sean O’Brien, building towards the November international series, was part of an extended Leinster squad against Glasgow and is due to be available this week.
Flanker Dan Leavy came through his first game after an ankle injury and adds his name to the backrow list. Hooker Richardt Strauss was also involved in Glasgow while centre Rory O’Loughlin is due back training this week.
Isa Nacewa has become a mid-term concern. He withdrew in the first half of the match against Montpellier and had a procedure on his ankle last Wednesday. He will not be available for about six weeks.
Jamie Heaslip’s back and the shoulder of Garry Ringrose have them both off the radar for a return any time soon.
The 10 points Leinster have from two games should fortify them for the short trip that in recent years has not had a happy ending. The usual mix of the familiarity of the players and a tetchy atmosphere is a leveller.
“We haven’t won in Ulster for the last five outings,” says scrum coach John Fogarty. “It’s a very difficult place to go, so right now everyone’s focusing on getting into the right frame of mind to go up to Ulster.
“I think we missed out last year, we went up there not prepared mentally and we didn’t come out with anything.”
However, European success has equipped Leinster with a firm backbone this time around.
“We understand we’re in a really tight pool,” says Fogarty. “You saw the Exeter result. It was a superb result over there and Montpellier have three points. So I think the block of work has been good over the last couple of weeks. Defensively we came undone a few times, and Exeter will tear us up, so we’re realistic as well.
“If we want to get into quarters and make them home ones, we need to be right on top of things. We’re realistic with where we are now. We’re realistic in what we need to improve on.”
Perhaps improved tackling. Now people are watching.