There has been no shortage of quality interprovincial fixtures over this festive period as the Irish provinces go head to head to not only rubber stamp their respective positions in the Guinness PRO14 but to also earn those elusive bragging rights.
Leinster have had a successful period thus far after they beat Munster in Thomond Park on St. Stephen’s Day before hosting an improving Connacht side at the RDS in a New Year’s Day clash yesterday. Leo Cullen’s side emerged 21-18 winners in a very exciting match which ended in Connacht going through an incredible 28 phases at the death in an attempt to score the match-winning try but were eventually turned over thanks to a steal from Max Deegan.
The win means that Leinster have not been defeated at the RDS in a regular-season PRO14/PRO12 fixture since February 2015. The eastern province look well on their way to be challenging for domestic and European honours at the end of the season and one of the main reasons for this is the excellent strength in depth which Cullen has at his disposal.
Leinster’s back-row depth is the envy of most of Europe and it was one of their star performers in these positions which made a bit of PRO14 history yesterday.
The highly talented and consistently effective Josh van der Flier was his usual busy self yesterday as he put in an incredible 34 tackles against Kieran Keane’s side. 34 is the highest number of tackles recorded in the competition since OPTA began tracking these statistics in 2010.
Remarkably, Van Der Flier was also incredibly accurate in this regard, he didn’t miss one of those tackles throughout his 80-minute performance.
— PRO14 RUGBY (@PRO14Official) January 2, 2018
It’s also a huge boost to Joe Schmidt to see one of his back row players performing so well for his club and the Kiwi coach will have some big decisions to make when he sets about picking his starting back row for Ireland’s Six Nations opener against France in just a few weeks time.