Leinster's New Generation Laid Down A Marker Today

Leinster's New Generation Laid Down A Marker Today
By Donny Mahoney Updated
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January 23, 2016. A Leinster team with nothing to play for, mired in one of their worst-ever European campaigns, travel to Coventry to play Wasps. They concede seven tries and lose 51-10. The result is somehow worse than Leinster's 33-6 defeat to Wasps to start the Champions Cup campaign in November. Leinster reeked of World Cup hangover that Sunday at the RDS. The home and away series finished 84-16 on aggregate.

The photos from that evening 15 months ago are worth looking back on. They tell their own story.

That Champions Cup campaign, and that match specifically, was clearly the end of the road for a Leinster team that dominated Europe.

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What has happened to Leinster in the season that has followed has been simply extraordinary.

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Leinster held out for a 32-17 win over Wasps today. It was scrappy at times, and ropey in the third quarter, but the Leinster team that blitzed Wasps in the first half bore zero relation to the beaten docket that limped through Europe last year.

The turnover in personnel is staggering. Sexton, Jack McGrath and Sean O'Brien were the only Leinster players to start the Ricoh drubbing and the win today. Only four players started the Wasps loss at the RDS and the game today. Some teams rebuild, Leinster have blooded an entire new generation in just a season.

To be sure, signings like Robbie Henshaw and Isa Nacewa have brought real leadership to this Leinster team, and the old guard - Sexton, O'Brien, Toner - stood up today. But a wave of youth has energised Dublin 4. Today's win was built on performances from Carbery, Ringrose, Leavy, Furlong and Conan. It says a lot that the first-placed team in the Premiership could stroll into the Aviva and lose by a 15 to a Leinster team without Heaslip and Kearney.

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We spoke to Cian Healy last week and he spoke honestly about how Leinster's academy tiros have forced Leinster's older players to raise their own game.

"The younger lads have brought in a level of professionalism that we didn't have at that age. The old guys have thrived on it."

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Toulon or Clermont lie in wait, but however this Champions Cup campaign plays out, the future feels particularly bright for Leinster.

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