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The Leinster forwards have started this season off in fantastic fashion with their work evident in all areas of the pitch.
What’s most interesting about the provincial pack’s season so far is their attacking output – as it stands, they’re outscoring the club’s backs by two to one (21-9).
The reasons for this involve several factors – for example, where they are positioned and how they operate set-pieces.
Hooker Dan Sheehan’s latest effort against Connacht underlines how forwards have developed in today’s game – the number two received the ball out wide and stepped Mack Hansen to get a clear run to the try line. Anyone that used Sky Bet sign up offer to back Leinster -30 collected the 5/1.
The multi-faceted ability of their forwards has only made Leinster a more dangerous threat to their opponents and fullback Hugo Keenan is happy to see his teammates perform so well.
“It’s brilliant – sure they’re scoring our tries for us,” Keenan exclaimed. “Dan Sheehan will be taking our jobs soon out on the wing.
“It’s great to have that talent in the pack. There’s some serious athletes coming through now and it definitely adds a different dynamic to the team and we’re lucky to have it.”
“The list goes on of lads that are in that category as well – it doesn’t happen just for no reason – it’s the work they do in training, the work they do in the gym and, yeah, it’s great to see that it’s paying off now.”
Keenan has noted that the growth of forwards such as Sheehan and flanker Josh Van Der Flier has changed the way he approaches an attack.
Van Der Flier has been dubbed ‘Van Der Flier 2.0’ in recent times as the Wicklow forward has greatly improved his ball-carrying ability in the last year, offering a strong threat with the ball in his hands as well as at the breakdown.
“He’s doing incredible, isn’t he? He’s such a hard worker, you see it in training everyday – he’s a bit of a student game, isn’t he?
“He’s improving so much and any feedback he gets from coaches, he’s so good at taking it on board and learning from it. He’s finding himself out in the wide channels a bit more so he’s working with the outside backs a bit and it’s paying dividends, isn’t it? He’s playing great rugby.”
Several Leinster forwards tend to find themselves in a wide position on phased attacking play, with number eight Jack Conan and hookers Sheehan and Rónan Kelleher being the usual suspects in this case.
In particular, the back row as a unit are known to find themselves in these sort of attacking positions – the likes of Caelan Doris and Dan Leavy can also be seen out wide on occasion.
The development only follows the trend in Leinster of mobile forwards, with those already mentioned serving as fine examples of what to expect from one.
Leinster forwards coach Robin McBryde described them as ‘modern-day forwards’ when speaking about the attacking impact several Leinster pack members had for Ireland last month.
Keenan, who has played full back for Ireland since making his debut last year, has said that he finds himself getting on the shoulder of the Leinster forwards more often.
“I think it’s not just [Van Der Flier], it’s about everyone flooding those channels when there’s a bit of a break.
“I think it was Mike Ala’alaatoa who got on the shoulder of Josh and then Ringer (Garry Ringrose) on Mike’s shoulders.
“That’s always positive to see and it’s something that Felipe (Contepomi) would be big on – winning those races and getting into that space.
“I think it is something that [Van Der Flier’s] improved and people are naturally trying to run off him now but it’s across the board as well.”