Leinster’s 24-9 loss to reigning Champions Cup holders Toulon taught us a lot of things about Leinster and their ongoing struggles.
While their blatant lack of discipline and problems at the breakdown and the set-piece will get most of the attention, Leo Cullen might need to start thinking about tinkering with some of his personnel if their fortunes are to change.
Sunday’s defeat at the Stade Mayol marked Leinster’s third successive European defeat and all but ended their continental campaign this season. The emergence of openside flanker Josh van der Flier has been one of the lone bright spots in an otherwise horrific campaign as Leinster’s established stars just aren’t getting it done.
Jack McGrath needs to be the first-choice loosehead prop going forward. Ben Te’o, while steady, needs his position in the centres to be challenged by a combination of Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan and Garry Ringrose, and Isa Nacewa can no longer be considered as a starter in European competition.
Since his return from temporary retirement he has not looked the same as the Nacewa of old. He looks shaky under the high ball, he does not have the speed to take advantage of overlaps on the wings and too many times do critical passes not meet their target or hit the ground first. Nacewa is a Leinster legend and was a critical part of their Heiniken Cup success at the start of this decade, but he needs to make way for the likes of Dave Kearney, Ringrose and Darragh Fanning.
His leadership and presence is still invaluable for a squad that too often loses their way, but Nacewa is becoming more of a liability than an outside weapon. He still has the ability to come out of the line and make some crunching tackles as he did yesterday, but he’s no longer a difference maker for Leinster on the wing or at full-back. He can still be utilised in the Pro12 but should not be considered as a first-choice starter in Leinster’s bigger games.
Nacewa has been a tremendous servant to Leinster over the years and will in all likelihood have a successful career in coaching and player development when he permanently retires, but at this stage of his career his services are needed off the field more than on it.
Jack O’Toole, Pundit Arena