Leinster and Munster Assert Dominance and Guile in Europe

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Dublin , Ireland - 16 December 2017; Fergus McFadden of Leinster is tackled by Ian Whitten of Exeter Chiefs during the European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 4 match between Leinster and Exeter Chiefs at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Leinster and Munster asserted their dominance and guile at the breakdown and in the tight for back-to-back wins.

Over the last two weeks, Ireland’s top provinces Leinster and Munster celebrated wins over Exeter Chiefs and Leicester Tigers respectively. All four matchups, home and away, relied heavily on tough, gritty, physical, game line battles. You could be forgiven in thinking the likes of Robbie Henshaw, Manu Tuilagi, Ian Whitten and Rory Arnold were playing in the back row.

Physicality and Intensity Require Additional Nous

Over the course of the last fortnight, the guile and physicality displayed by the top two Irish provinces prevailed over the Chiefs and Tigers. There are many similarities to these performances and Ireland’s victory over England last March, ending their opponents’ hopes of a double grand slam. The Irish side made their Premiership counterparts seem almost naive, well and truly outsmarting their opponents.

Sean O’Brien, Peter O’Mahony, Jack Conan and Chris Cloete seemed to operate at another level when it came to the breakdown. Their awareness and organisation trumped Exeter and Leicester, operating methodically. One such example, though it is an exaggerated case, was the clip below of Exeter’s Jonny Hill and Leinster’s Jack Conan.

This moment was from the second round of action between the four clubs, in which the English side came back with a level of physicality to match and at times supersede the Irish.

Lessons to Learn for Premiership Teams

If you want to beat the best you can’t rely on brute force alone. The nous showed by Munster’s South African openside Chris Cloete was a perfect example. The Munster openside was unable to impose himself in the same manner as the previous week. A sluggish Tigers backrow made the former Southern Kings player’s work look like a fine art. Munster men doubled on ball carriers at near every carry. Utilising the second man to force the carrier over the game line.

In the reverse fixture, there were countless occasions where one-out carriers were met with double tackles. At elite level, you just can’t expect forwards to carry into two men and win the collisions. Tiring legs have energy sapped twice as fast to compound the issue. After all, two sets of broad shoulders are better than one.

English Sides Must Step Up

In short, Leinster and Munster have adopted the attention to detail of Joe Schmidt. The Ireland head coach is world renowned for analysing the smallest details, where there is no room for aimlessness. Leicester’s and Exeter’s step up in intensity just wasn’t enough. While they ran their opposition closer in the second week, they must step up to the next level to competing with the best in Europe.

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