It has been a difficult few weeks for Leinster Rugby after missing out on a Champions Cup title against La Rochelle and, now, falling to the Bulls in the URC semi-final in Dublin.
This latest loss has amplified the notion that Leinster have trouble standing up to physical opponents, something Leinster boss Leo Cullen does not deny at this point.
“No, it’s not a wrong analysis because there are similarities in terms of how some of those teams set up the game,” he said in the wake of the Bulls loss.
“It’s one of the great debates really. There is that type of squeeze rugby. You saw it in the Lions against South Africa and that was two teams trying to play that pressure rugby game.
“That’s not necessarily our DNA and there are lots of different factors. How the game is refereed plays a part in that and some of those big turnovers, particularly when the conditions deteriorate a bit as well, and how we manage that as a team, as a coaching group and how we message.
“We want to be able to play a more ambitious attacking game because there are other factors and trying to get season ticket holders to come and watch the games etc etc. But that’s the bit that you need to have both parts to your game because if it turns into an arm wrestle you need to be able to play that type of game as well.
“That’s the part that we will always question ourselves but we want to stay true to the DNA of Leinster rugby as well. That’s the challenge for us. We need to be a bit more accurate in executing our game because when we get our game right against even a power-based team we can be a match for anyone. That’s the bit: be at our best on the biggest days.
“Unfortunately we weren’t today and that’s the bit we need to reflect on from an individual and collective sense.”
However, it is not all doom & gloom for Cullen who recognised the positives and the fact that the future still looks bright for Leinster.
“There is a tonne of talent here. There has been lots of positive bits in the season in bringing guys through and I strongly believe the group will be strong next year. The young guys will kick on even further. There is plenty of experience. Sometimes it’s no harm you go through games like this to really appreciate the big days and what’s involved.
“The players just need to drive it on now, there’s plenty of experience in the group and a good mix of old, experienced guys who’ve had some positive and negative experiences and you need those negative experiences sometimes to build the pain and the resilience and the rest.
“It’s not the way we wanted to end it, but we have to look forward now and watch on next week.
“I do believe our game has come on a lot this year. We’ve added plenty of layers to the game. It might not seem that when you come up with nothing at the end of the season, but you get to a Champions Cup final away in France, you’re so close, little bits of execution, but that’s going back to that point, we really need to be at our best on all the big days and it’s just little, little things we’re not quite nailing. That’s the fine margins, isn’t it?
“That’s the bit for us just to keep working away on. It’s a long summer though, isn’t it, when you don’t have silverware and I guess everyone in the club demands that. It’s not that it’s an expectation, but there’s a demand for it. And that’s everybody, players, coaches, supporters, the whole shebang.
“But there’s lots of progress in our game. Unfortunately when you lose in the manner you do today, it may not feel like that.
“But yeah, that’s the reflection. Making sure that we’re right on the big days.
“As I said, I’ll look to myself first, how we go about setting up the players, but there’s plenty to reflect upon now. We’re all hugely disappointed, but we’ll come back stronger. As I said, I think the group have made progress in a number of facets and a number of individuals have made great strides this year as well, so I think they’ll be better for the experience, as painful as it is.”