Leinster’s armoury expanding ahead of fierce October battles
Scrum coach John Fogarty positive about province’s progress so far this season
Leinster players celebrate after Josh van der Flier scored a try during Friday’s Guinness Pro12 victory over Ospreys at the RDS. Photograph: James Crosbie/Inpho.
If the wins and the tries keep coming it’s not unduly concerning, and against most opponents in this league not even a locked and fully-loaded Leinster will dominate for 80 minutes. And they have maintained their form despite steadily welcoming back a raft of players returning from delayed pre-seasons and/or from injury.
The returning Johnny Sexton and Rhys Ruddock came through last Friday’s win unscathed, and scrum coach John Fogarty reported that Seán O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw “are back in the rugby programme, so it’s a case of seeing how close we are. We’re not quite sure yet, but they’re back on the field.
“Seán will do a warm up today and a different part of the rugby session, so it’s brilliant, and it brings a lot of energy to what is a team that has a bit of energy at the moment.”
Leinster are hopeful the two will return in what is a huge October for them and the other provinces, beginning with Saturday’s trek to Cardiff, one of only two unbeaten sides in the Guinness Pro12 after four rounds, before derbies against Munster at the Aviva Stadium and Connacht either side of hosting Castres and facing Montpellier away in the European Champions Cup.
The scrum has been a notable source of strength, yielding a penalty try last Friday, although Fogarty is mindful that tough challenges await in the coming weeks.
The coach hailed the performance of Tadhg Furlong on his first start of the season against the Ospreys.
“Tadhg was involved in 35 breakdowns at the weekend and he was effective in 93 per cent of those breakdowns,” said Fogarty of the 23-year-old. “The obvious things that he does well are around the scrum and the set-piece but what he can offer us in the game, through breakdown and his carry and his defence and the energy he can bring to the team, is huge.
“When you can get that out of your tightheads, that’s really positive considering how we want to play the game.”
Furlong himself is mindful of the looming November Tests but is more concerned with being part of “trying to build something special here at Leinster”.
To that end, despite being an understudy for Leinster and Ireland this past while to ’Ol Man River himself, Mike Ross, Furlong maintains they remain good buddies more than rivals.
“Myself and Mike are good friends, I get on well with Mike and I keep slagging him. Like, ‘Rossy, you’re born in the ’70s . . . I’m [born in] ’92 and you’re two generations older!’ He’s like: ‘You’re obsessed with my age Tadhg, I’m fine!’”
“But to be fair to Rossy, he’s playing some really good rugby at the minute, and some of the best stuff is around the field, the contribution he’s making is really, really good.”
“When you look at someone like Rossy who has done it for so long, I suppose he’s so consistent in his scrum and coaches have that trust in him, they know he’s always going to do a job because he’s done it on the big stage and he’s done it so many times.
“When you look at Rossy, that’s what you have to take: the work he puts into the scrum, the way he brings young lads through. He threw me under his wing there when I came into the academy five or six years ago.
“It’s the dark arts and I suppose no one really gets what we do, other than each other, and we have a huge amount of respect for each other, tighthead, loosehead, hooker – so he’s really good for bringing that group together. The main thing would be the consistency in the scrum, what he brings every week.”