Having secured their 3rd Heineken Cup title in 4 years with a 42-14 mauling of provincial rivals Ulster in Twickenham, it is not just the Rugby faithful of Dublin who are now calling Joe Schmidt’s team the best ever assembled in Europe. This victory was quite rightly heralded as something quite above and beyond the efforts of other sides who have had periods of dominance in the competition – the Leicester Tigers side who won back to back titles in 2001 and 2002, the Toulouse side who won two of the next three titles, the Munster teams victorious in 2006 and 2008. This Leinster team are playing rugby on a different level. In the sport which is most reliant on team work, where it is most imperative for every member of the squad to be on the same letter, of the same word, of the same line of the same page, Leinster are the most hypnotically effective machine in the Cup’s short history.
Sure, there are standout individuals – Rob Kearney, who now surely could argue his case as the world’s most potent Full Back, Isa Nacewa, probably the most effective utility player in the entire continent, Johnny Sexton, becoming as reliable as O’Driscoll in his prime, and, of course, O’Driscoll himself, still with the devastating eye for space which made him a living legend.
Yet this Leinster side are something more than the sum of their parts. They shift naturally through the gears like few other Northern Hemisphere sides (club or country) in history have ever done. Stonewall defence switches to rapid attack with imperceptible ease of movement, threat being extinguished then transformed into opportunity with an almost preternatural speed.
Perhaps the most definitive statistic of the whole day was the early possession stat. Ulster had 80% of the ball in the first 15 minutes, yet ended that period 7-3 in arrears. Even without the ball, Leinster have the ability to devastate the opposition.