August 8, 2022

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They say money can’t buy you happiness, but it also can’t guarantee you a winning...

They say money can’t buy you happiness, but it also can’t guarantee you a winning rugby team.
ath are the latest example of that, with current owner Bruce Craig believed to have invested over £21m of his hard-earned cash since taking ownership of the club in 2010. That investment saw his Bath team coming to the Aviva yesterday on the back of 10 straight defeats since their season started on September 18.

Bath Rugby are sponsored by a friend of Craig’s, billionaire James Dyson. Dyson is the richest man in the UK and tells the story that it took 5,127 prototypes before they arrived at the vacuum cleaner that started his fortune. Dyson is obviously a patient man, but it seems Craig is close to saying enough is enough.
Former Saracens CEO Ed Griffiths was brought in last month to review the performance of the rugby department and he revealed his findings to the playing squad and management and, apparently, they had 30 days to turn things around.

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Leo Cullen saw his Leinster side notch seven tries in their 25-point rout of Bath at the Aviva Stadium. Photo:

Leo Cullen saw his Leinster side notch seven tries in their 25-point rout of Bath at the Aviva Stadium. Photo:
They are scouring the world for a defence coach, so conceding five tries by half-time yesterday was no surprise. They play La Rochelle at home next weekend and then Gloucester at home on December 26, and after the Leinster hammering, it’s hard to see how the coaches will survive. A team with the history and the individuals they do shouldn’t be as bad as they are right now.
Stuart Lancaster and Leo Cullen have no need to fear for their jobs, but they still have pressure. They will feel that it’s high-time Leinster got back to the top table again. Toulouse, Exeter and Saracens have all tasted glory since Leinster won their fourth star in Bilbao in 2018.
Ireland beating the All Blacks in November with so many Leinster players adds to that expectation. There are real similarities in how Leinster and Ireland attack now, which makes sense as cohesion is a big factor in international rugby.
The Champions Cup is in a funny place at the moment. Saracens, having been relegated for salary-cap breaches, are back in the Premiership but in the Challenge Cup. Exeter aren’t firing like they used to and Bristol and Sale Sharks have both only won three from nine matches in the league and will be focusing on their domestic form.
The effort of Northampton on Friday night against Racing 92 was shocking and I have no sympathy for teams that rest normal starters at home in round one.
Bordeaux are currently leading the Top 14, but their coach, Christophe Urio, wants a Top 14 title before they look at conquering Europe. Clermont seem to be in a rebuilding phase under Jono Gibbes and Toulon, who have pedigree in this competition, are in the Challenge Cup.
So, in my opinion, the winner will come from Leinster, Racing 92 and Toulouse, who are the current champions. Racing 92 have had a mixed start to the season but will take huge confidence from hammering Northampton, and their back line and attack under the tutelage of Limerick man Mike Prendergast is beautiful to watch.
Toulouse are a class team and have the world player of the year in Antoine Dupont but sold Cheslin Kobe to Toulon, which is one game-breaker less, and in the latter stages, big players make the difference.
Leinster will have learned nothing from beating Bath. They were always going to have too much power in this game, and it’s been power that has cost them in the past. Last season, with injuries affecting the quality of their bench, they had very little to bring on to turn the tide when La Rochelle started to dominate after half time.
They were taken apart at scrum time against Saracens in the previous year, something Leinster have rectified by promoting Ronan Kelleher to first-choice hooker and moving Andrew Porter to loosehead.
Robin McBryde changed their scrum technique, too, after that match and when lots of pundits felt, and still feel, that Leinster should have signed a big foreign lock over the summer, Cullen went for another tighthead in Samoan international Michael Ala’alatoa, which, along with the emergence of Dan Sheehan, gives them serious depth in the front row.
There is talk on the streets that Leinster are going to bring in a foreign lock next year with Bristol Bears’ Samoan Chris Vui rumoured to be on their watch list. Presuming this is Devin Toner’s last season, that will open up a spot in the roster.
Tadgh Furlong admitted that Leinster were sloppy, but with three players out with Covid and Johnny Sexton injured, there is a lot more to come. Ciaran Frawley continues to look like he is ready to become a frontliner and offers a different option.
Next week sees Leinster pit themselves against a team that has the size and power to test them, in Montpelier away. I fully expect Leinster to be able to negate that power and have too much speed and skill not to win.

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