Rúaidhrí O'Connor: “If Leinster don’t slow Scarlets’ ball down, they need to get in their faces"

Leo Cullen's side are looking to progress to the final of the Champions Cup

BY offtheball.com 16:04 Monday 16 April 2018, 16:04 16 Apr 2018

Jordan Larmour finally returned last weekend, but even he found it hard to break down a resilient Treviso side who kept Leinster at bay to record their lowest score at home in the Pro14 since last May, when they left the competition at the semi-final stage at the hands of the Scarlets.

On Off The Ball AM this morning, journalist Ruadhri O Connor joined host Ger Gilroy as they previewed this weekend’s salivating Champions Cup tie against the Scarlets, first analysing the possibility of a Sean O’Brien and Robbie Henshaw return.

On their chances of making it, O’Connor noted Sean O’Brien looked “very rusty” last Saturday evening, noting he was carrying his left arm “quite heavily” and was eventually substituted at half-time as O’Connor observed he “didn’t really make any impact on the game”. In a tweet sent after the game on Saturday, O’Connor reported that Cullen mentioned Leinster had been “managing his minutes” amid his return.

 

In regards to centre Robbie Henshaw’s possible return, O’Connor said whilst the Leinster man has played more recently, having Henshaw back, as he noted, is a “huge, huge thing to have”, with the 24-year-old’s burly presence in midfield sure to be a big obstacle for the Scarlets to overcome.

The return of Henshaw creates more selection headaches for head coach Leo Cullen, especially as 20-year-old Jordan Larmour is now seemingly back to full fitness. However, Rory O’Loughlin, having come off as a second-half substitute in Saturday’s defeat, may very well be forced out of action again this weekend after a head injury he sustained against Treviso.

This seemingly opens the door for Larmour to keep his place in the squad, as O’Connor told Ger that “I can see him wearing the number 23 shirt, someone who could come on and change the game.”

When asked by Ger how he would combat the ‘Harlem Globetrotters’ approach of the Scarlets, O’Connor said:

“I think you slow down their ball... If you don’t slow their ball down you need to get in their faces, you need to get off the line, so that’s where Henshaw comes in, himself and Isa Nacewa would be very aggressive in midfield.”

O’Connor also noted that he thinks James Lowe will start if scrum-half Luke McGrath starts, highlighting the New Zealand import’s attacking ability with ball in-hand.

“I think Lowe gives you so much width with the ball,” he said. “The best form of defence is attack, you get the ball wide to James Lowe - you’re going to create stuff.”

In other injury news, O’Connor believes that backrows Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan will not play a part in this weekend’s Champions Cup clash, telling Ger this morning that he was “pretty confident” Rhys Ruddock “won’t play this weekend” despite Leinster not confirming it yet themselves."

 

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