Contact zone technique is at the center of Leinster’s concerns
A number of recent events on the pitch have drawn more attention to the discipline around tackling and breaking down and Leinster are working hard to ensure they are on top of their minds.
High tackles in Ireland’s Six Nations games against Italy and England, and in two of Leinster and Connacht’s recent encounters saw red and yellow cards handed out, while Dan Leavy was forced to end his career last week after failing to fully recover from the knee injury he suffered when a player entered from the side of a ruck.
Former Munster and Ireland full-back Denis Leamy is the contact skills coach at Leinster and he is a very busy man.
“We are doing a good technical job, especially with Denis Leamy. He does a good job with us,” says flanker Josh van der Flier.
“We try not to leave anything to the referee, we try to be perfect to show him good shots, and try to be clean that way.
“This thing that you practice as a schoolboy or play in clubs is like trying to hit low, go under and go up.
“But the players are pretty quick in space and go for poaches, you have players tackling and bucking, you have players coming in late for a poach.
“It’s never a sharp, perfect picture, that’s what makes it quite difficult.
“My goal is to pass the ball as quickly as possible.
“The perfect thing, from my point of view, is not having to hit anybody, not having to clear the ruck at all because the moment the ball carrier falls to the ground, I’m directly over the ball and they don’t even have a chance to compete.
“You rarely get perfect textbook footage, which is the same as when you practice hitting the pad in a practice session.
“That’s why it can sometimes feel a bit messy at ruck, but you definitely want to do it in the most classic way possible, but it doesn’t always work that way.”
Leinster have received two yellow cards in their last two games against Friday’s opponents Connacht, with Jamison Gibson-Park considered lucky by some not to have been sent off for a high tackle on Kieran Marmion, which bloodied the nose of Connacht scrum. half-time in the first leg.
Asked about improving tackling discipline, attack and defense coach Felipe Contepomi agreed that this is an area that needs attention.
“The way it’s officiated, it’s not even indiscipline,” he said.
“You have to have good gestures, you have to have good technique, you have to lower the tackle because if it’s a head contact, even without intention, if it’s unlucky or whatever, if it’s reckless it’s It’s a red card. Period.
“We have to be aware of that and we are working very hard, trying to reduce that contact and having good technique in our defence.
“It’s not bad discipline, it’s part of the game and the way it’s officiated these days and you have to adapt to that.
“Denis Leamy, he spends a lot of time in the contact zone and works on technique and the correct body position in attack and defense, also on the break.”
Leinster will go into the second leg of their Heineken Champions Cup tie with a five-point cushion from game one and are 1-25 to advance to a meeting with Clermont or Leicester, who won the opener 29-10 in France. .
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Van der Flier, meanwhile, says the team will take little comfort from their margin of victory in a tie that must be decided on the aggregate score.
“There’s a five point advantage, it’s knockout rugby, it doesn’t matter if you score a try or five as long as you get the win,” said the 28-year-old Ireland international.
“I’m sure that if there are opportunities to take points at any stage, we will gladly take them.
“The start is extremely important. If they start like they did last week [with an early try] then everything is level after [three] minutes.
“Five points isn’t much of a cushion. We’re starting from scratch and working from there.”
Follow Leinster v Connacht (Friday 5.30pm), Munster v Exeter (Saturday 3pm) Ulster v Toulouse (Saturday 8pm) via our live blogs at rte.ie/sport and on the RTÉ News app. Listen to live radio coverage of Leinster v Connacht on RTÉ 2fm.