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Danny Care is in awe of a 'best in Europe' aspect of Leinster play

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

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Ex-England scrum-half Danny Care was left in awe by the silver service provided last Saturday by Leinster to their No9, Jamison Gibson-Park. The Irish province swept past Leicester, the Gallagher Premiership leaders, to qualify for a Heineken Champions Cup semi-final tie with Toulouse and the manner of their performance at the breakdown had the Harlequins half-back singing their praises. 

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Now 35 and with the electric Marcus Smith playing outside him at Quins, Care has become increasingly clued into the value of quick ruck ball. Harlequins managed to edge Leicester when they visited The Stoop last month, but that narrow win was eclipsed by the way more destructive manner in which Leinster tore at the Tigers to secure their comfortable 23-14 win.    

Appearing on Rugby Union Weekly, the BBC podcast show, Care sounded envious about the armchair ride that the Leinster industry at the breakdown provided for Gibson-Park, who put the quick ball he was provided with to very good use in fashioning a 20-0 interval lead for his team at Welford Road.

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“What I love about Gibson-Park is just the tempo that he brings,” suggested Care, opening the segment on the show that also featured Chris Ashton, a 46th-minute Leicester try-scorer in that game. “Leinster for me are the best team in this competition. 

“Technically they are the best team, their attacking breakdown – and I am a bit of a nause at the breakdown now in terms of attack because to get quick ball as a nine who wants to run your attacking breakdown has to be spot on. 

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“If you want to see how to carry a ball and clean a ruck out and promote the ball quickly to a nine, watch that Leinster performance against Leicester. This sounds like a simple thing but their ball carriers run so hard into the contact. You would say, ‘Well, everybody should run hard’ but there is a difference between running hard and running to bust. Leinster run to bust every single time and then their two support players are there with them in a millisecond, with a split second of the ball carrier being there and they just blitz that breakdown.

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“So for a Leicester defender, the defence coach will say at times make the ruck slower but you can’t because they are so efficient. They are in there so quickly that the ball is then on a plate and then Gibson-Park can do what he wants because no defence can get set.

“They haven’t had time and they can’t slow the ball down, he can pick and run, he can pass, he can kick, he can do anything. It’s almost the silver service and then he has got the quickness in thought and the quickness of mind to go and exploit gaps or put little kicks over or get the ball to (Johnny) Sexton who then throws it out the back door. I was blown away by their breakdown. 

“As soon as I saw them start that game that way I thought, ‘Oh my God, how are Leicester going to stop this?’ Fair play, they (only) scored three tries. Another team would have shipped seven, eight, nine tries against Leinster that day because their attacking breakdown was phenomenal.

“I haven’t seen that level of intensity in the Premiership or in most cases in Europe this year. That aspect of the game, they are like a level above and then Gibson Park, his job is made a lot easier. Don’t get me wrong, he is a brilliant rugby player but that service that he gets off the base is the best in Europe.” 

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