The few that made the trip to the RDS on Friday night were treated to an extremely one sided game of rugby. Although the rugby on show was very entertaining, I must start by commenting on the weakness of this Zebre team. From the very offset, the opposition looked disjointed and uninspired. It must be soul-destroying playing in this Zebre team, who are unlikely to win many games in the season, with the exception of Trevisio and one or two other teams. I found it incredibly confusing to see Mils Muliaina enter the fray late in the game for Zebre. How strange it must be for a player who played over 100 times for the All Blacks, to play for a team who looked so unlikely to even challenge this Leinster team.
Once again this Leinster team has been seriously depleted because of the Six Nations. But the silver-lining for Cullen will surely be the incredible talent Leinster seem to be able to produce through their academy. The backline had a very young look to it and they seemed to be really enjoying their rugby. Once again the limited opposition played their part in making this young team look good, but credit still has to be given to how the young players have adapted in the absence of the big stars this season.
The style of rugby Leo has got the team to play this season has been very exciting. He thankfully has torn up the playbook from the Matt O’Connor era, where the onus seemed to be on forcing the opposition into making mistakes. Instead he has inspired the team to focus on attacking rugby and keeping the ball in hand. Friday night was another example of this, with the whole team looking comfortable with ball in hand, and with the backline running some really nice plays. Credit has to go to Girvan Dempsey who seems to be succeeding as backs coach, but also because of the way the youngsters coming through the academy he used to run, appear to already be up to speed with the senior team’s playing style.
I think the youngsters did exceptionally well, but praise has to be given to some of the experienced players who added the composure and class at key stages. I thought Zane Kirchner played really well, and his huge kicks to touch from open play or penalties gave Leinster key territory and attacking platforms. Also Nacewa scored a lovely try and also attacked really positively throughout the first half. I also thought Jordi Murphy had a great game and will have caught the attention of Schmidt. However I don’t think Healy was anywhere near his usual standards and I don’t think Schmidt will be rushing to throw him in next game in the 6 Nations.