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Leinster's Team Selection Controversial In Dramatic Cardiff Win

Leinster's Team Selection Controversial In Dramatic Cardiff Win
Gavin Cooney
By Gavin Cooney
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For the casual rugby fan - those who gorge the Six Nations but believe that the Premiership was renamed the Premier League a few years ago - the new season starts not with a bang but with a whimper.

Those running the Pro14 believe it can become a weekly behemoth, and Leinster's astonishing success last season shows that the quality at the top of the competition is as good as it is anywhere else. It's the competitiveness down the league that's the issue.

Arguments about the league's competitiveness often corral around team selection, and Leinster's pick for last night's win at the Cardiff Blues gave plenty of grist for mills.

Leinster came from behind to win by a single point - 33-32 - in spite of starting a team featuring three regular Irish internationals: Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath and Dave Kearney. That they still won is a testament to the champions' awesome level of depth, but is the fact that Leinster can kick off a season without their most recognisable stars stifling the potential development of the competition?

This proved to be a talking point around this game, and indeed ahead of the launch of this season's competition. The Rugby Paper's Peter Jackson wrote of how Johnny Sexton has become "invisible" on Pro14 weekends:

Over the last two seasons Sexton has started nine matches for Leinster in the PRO12-14 plus one as a sub. All but one took place in his hometown, either at the RDS in Ballsbridge or on the bigger stage across the road at what we old-timers remember fondly as Lansdowne Road.

The one non-Irish appearance was at Cardiff Arms Park against Blues on October 1, 2016, his only PRO14 match in Wales over the last two years. When he brings his champion football team to the Welsh capital next month, Pep Guardiola will have been there twice as often as the Irish prince of fly-halves in not much more than six months....

...Under Martin Anayi’s leadership as chief executive, what began as the Celtic League has pushed its frontiers back all the way to Africa in search of new markets. Their awarding of exclusive live rights to the Irish pay-per-view channel Premier Sports eliminates audiences of up to 160,000 on BBC Wales for their Friday night Scrum V live.

The PRO14 swear the increased money makes it worthwhile but without saying how much is involved. Maybe tens of thousand will subscribe and the venture will be a resounding success but for those who will not be coughing up, it will serve to heighten Sexton’s invisibility.

Stephen Jones - rarely slow to criticise the running of the competition in the past - made the point while absolving Leinster from blame.

leinster team selection

Elsewhere, rugby writer Alex Shaw pointed out that the 'Leinster B' phenomenon merely accentuates the quality of the champions' approach.

This launched plenty of differing opinions of it all:

See Also: Watch: Luke Fitzgerald Predicts Massive Year For Munster Rugby

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