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'It might sound really harsh' - Jackman on Leinster's Achilles' heel

By Ian Cameron
DUBLIN, IRELAND - MAY 04: Tadhg Furlong and Dan Sheehan of Leinster Rugby applaud the fans with teammates after defeating Northampton Saints during the Investec Champions Cup Semi Final match between Leinster Rugby and Northampton Saints at Croke Park on May 04, 2024 in Dublin, Ireland. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Former rugby Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman has raised concerns about Leinster’s depth ahead of the Investec Champions Cup final. Reflecting on Leinster’s narrow victory against Northampton, Jackman highlighted a recurring pattern of Leinster’s struggles to maintain leads in crucial matches.

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Despite establishing a comfortable 17-point lead, Leinster faced a late onslaught from Northampton, reminiscent of previous encounters where sizable leads evaporated.

In the end, Leinster squeezed by 20-17 in a match that they appeared to dominate for much of the 80 minutes.

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Sharks coach John Plumtree gives his view of a nailbiting one-point win over Clermont Auvergne in a Challenge Cup semifinal

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Sharks coach John Plumtree gives his view of a nailbiting one-point win over Clermont Auvergne in a Challenge Cup semifinal

Speaking on RTE, Jackman emphasized the importance of a strong bench, noting a significant drop-off in performance once substitutions are made.

While Leinster boasts a formidable starting XV, Jackman believes their lack of depth could be a vulnerability, particularly as Leinster prepares to face either Toulouse or Harlequins in the final in London.

With the likes of second row James Ryan injured and Garry Ringrose only just getting back to fitness, Leinster’s bench is starting to look a little threadbare, argued the former Dragons and Grenoble coach.

“It may sound really harsh,” said Jackman, “but you look at that bench, and there’s only two players on it that are international standard: that’s Kelleher and Jack Conan.

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“Healy coming off the bench, he’s got loads of experience but it’s a big ask of him to come off the bench and give you impact. The others: Jimmy O’Brien’s only coming back from injury, Jason Jenkins, Michael Ala’alatoa, that’s the scary thing for Leinster. When you look at this Toulouse squad, who’ll play tomorrow – the starting fifteen and bench.

“Garry Ringrose, James Ryan, maybe they can come back in, Hugo Keenan…Maybe you go 6-2 and you bring a Will Connors in as well.

“I think for Leo, there’s three weeks to get some of those players back fit so you get a 23-man squad who can help you get over the line.”

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