Leinster and Jack McGrath looking for a big improvement

Province still smarting from Ulster defeat as they prepare to host Treviso in vital clash

Jack McGrath in action against Ulster. “Overall I think we probably let ourselves down.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Jack McGrath in action against Ulster. “Overall I think we probably let ourselves down.” Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

It has been a hairshirt week for Leinster, a time to pause. But as their final league game beckons, the outpouring of self-criticism has been such that you imagine there will be a positive response from Leo Cullen’s side.

Treviso won’t totally satisfy the Leinster fans need for a retaking of higher ground and as much as the Italian scrum is talked up, Treviso have never been considered a threat in Dublin.

Jack McGrath emerged from a forwards review earlier this week in UCD, knowing that a second experience of self recrimination was expected. Like Johnny Sexton before him, he was well-armed to self inflict more wounds, a type of purge before the healing begins.

“I think probably a bit of our breakdown, dropping the ball in key areas, a few bits like that,” says McGrath on where Leinster failed in Belfast.

“Overall I think we probably let ourselves down. We knew we had to go up 100 per cent against those guys and we were probably off. What more can I say? It was disappointing and we probably have to wear it.”

Home semi-final

The players blame themselves more than Cullen for the Ulster defeat – although perhaps too simplistically some have pointed to the Leinster coach’s role too.

“He knows the quality is there,” says McGrath of Cullen.  “He knows the guys know what they’ve done wrong. Like there’s a pack of internationals there and a team of internationals there and . . you can’t put blame on him, it’s just us as players who haven’t performed. He’s not a shouter but you know when he’s annoyed when he speaks to you.”

To that end the stern coach has been played and Leinster looks to the weekend and to whatever playoff they are dealt. McGrath will take particular interest in the scrum and like assistant John Fogarty respects what the Italians have done there.

 “It’s between the two Italian teams that one will get into the Champions Cup, so it’s a massive game for them,” says McGrath. “Connacht had been going pretty well over the last while and for them to do that [to Connacht] in the scrums has to ring alarm bells.

“It was pretty impressive. We were happy with our own scrum on Saturday. But as we know Italians pride themselves in the scrum so it’s somewhere we’ll have to be really screwed on because that’s where a real strength of theirs lies.”

For Fogarty, the fall was in what they call the percentages. He asks if Ulster just brought a game that beat them all over the part. Part of it was in attitude and mental preparation; perhaps that’s where the two Leinster yellow cards came in.

This weekend can iron out some details but the scar from the Ulster defeat will remain until Leinster meet them again or win this year’s Pro 12.

“You can live with the score line, with an interception and a penalty try,” says Fogarty. “What you can’t live with are those small parts of the game. Had they more intent? Were their second efforts better? When they tackled were they off the ground earlier?

“That’s it for me. Were they a little bit more desperate than us? That’s frustrating. If we don’t have those parts of the game, that enthusiasm, that intent, that energy around the ball against Treviso we are going to find ourselves in a little bit of trouble and we won’t create those opportunities. There is accountability to all those little parts.”

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