Sterner tests await provinces, Ken Early on Ireland’s dour Denmark draw

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James Lowe and Tadhg Furlong celebrate Leinster’s fifth try in their 52-3 rout of Wasps. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

James Lowe and Tadhg Furlong celebrate Leinster’s fifth try in their 52-3 rout of Wasps. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

It was a fine weekend for Irish sides in Europe, with all four provinces unbeaten after the opening round of the Champions and Challenge Cups. Leinster were first up on Friday night and began the defence of their Champions Cup crown with an ominous 52-3 evisceration of Wasps at the RDS. Kiwi winger James Lowe picked up another brace of tries in a man of the match performance, but afterwards acknowledged he remains ‘expendable’ when it comes to the selection of two overseas players: “I just want to put that jersey on and leave it in a better place then when I came.” There were also victories for Ulster - who beat Leicester Tigers 24-10 in the driving Belfast rain on Saturday evening - and Connacht, who began their Challenge Cup campaign with a 22-10 win over Bordeaux-Begles at the Sportsground. Only one of the provinces failed to secure a win, but as Gerry Thornley writes: “there’s little doubt that Munster’s 10-10 draw in Sandy Park on Saturday was the best result for any of the four sides in what looks like being a very competitive pool.” Things will get tougher for the provinces next weekend, with Leinster, Connacht and Ulster on the road - while Munster will be expected to beat Gloucester at Thomond Park.

Elsewhere this morning Ken Early has reflected on Ireland’s dour goalless draw with Denmark at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday evening. Martin O’Neill deployed Cyrus Christie in a defensive midfield role as his charges managed to keep a clean sheet having conceded nine in their previous two competitive fixtures. However, keeping things tight at the back meant there was little in the way of attacking ambition on show on a sodden Dublin night. Early writes: “The defensive solidity that Ireland showed against Denmark was clearly an improvement over conceding four or five goals, but if it comes at such crippling cost to the attacking potential then you have to wonder: what was the point?”

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