Pro 12 Season Preview: Leinster
Two seasons in a row they’ve made the final and once out right led the league on points. Two seasons in a row they’ve ended up losing in said final. Now I know Leinster in recent seasons has had bigger fish to fry in the Heineken Cup, but surely that’s got to start to get a bit annoying?
This annoyance is a privileged position for their fans to be in, a place that many other teams’ fans would love to get to, but it must be seen as a failure, despite their Heineken Cup successes, to be so dominant in a league – and yet still fail to win it.
Leinster’s squad depth is something to be admired. Their academy set up is the envy of many of the other teams in the league. The professionalism that Leinster brings to each game is to be commended but one can’t help but question how long they can continue as they are. Is there academy working well enough to produce replacement players quickly enough?
The only weakness I can really see in this Leinster team is that of the front row. Take away their first choice props and this is very much their achilles heel, something which the Ospreys ruthlessly took advantage of twice in the end of last season, and it will be the props where Leinster must look to develop new players, and afford them enough game time to get the experience needed to compete well. It will be a fine balancing act, but I’ve no doubt Leinster will manage these positions as well as they have the rest of their squad.
Again, for this season, I can see Isa Nacewa being a standout player for this side. For the past two seasons he has effectively carried this team in the Pro 12 when their Irish stars have, for the most part, been missing. His leadership capabilities and sheer individual brilliance lights up the league but it should also lend a word of caution. For one side to seemingly depend on just one player to be such an effective game breaker is a worry, and for me I think Leinster need to look beyond him for other players to spark their better performances.
I predict another season of Leinster being comfortably in the top four of the table, although not perhaps as dominant as last season. Anything but an appearance in the final I would consider to be a failure. Leinster have built themselves up a fierce reputation, but all the signs are indicating that they are more than capable of living up to it.
My players to watch: Devin Toner, Isa Nacewa, Dominic Ryan and Kevin Mclaughlin