All Blacks influence European style – Stuart Barnes

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The Times columnist and former international Stuart Barnes said, after the weekend's games, that Leinster was taking the 'European game to rarefied levels with a counterattacking approach straight out of the All Blacks' book.'

 

"Ireland have studied their rugby, emulated them, beaten them regularly and – in Leinster – have a team whose foundations are based upon the New Zealand way," he said.

 

Although the All Blacks were not as dominant at the moment as they have been, their win-loss ratio through rugby's amateur and professional eras meant the All Black way should not be dismissed.

 

Leinster's form and record in Europe had deep southern hemisphere roots.

 

"Having toured New Zealand from the tip of the North Island to the southern iciness of Invercargill, I've never been anything but stunned by the quality of their schools' rugby. The basics are brilliant. Christchurch, the capital city of Canterbury, the home of the all-conquering Crusaders, is rugby's version of Oxbridge, the Sorbonne and Harvard rolled into one," he said.

 

Leinster's rugby academy was affecting the quality of schools' rugby played in Dublin.

Former England coach Stuart Lancaster was reaping the benefits with a conveyor belt of exceptional talent coming through and finishing them with some 'black magic.'

 

"In Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe, he has two of Europe's best players. Scrum-half Gibson-Park is, at present, the best No9 in this hemisphere, with Antoine Dupont of Toulouse – who Leinster will face in the semifinals on Saturday – enduring the first dip of his career.

 

"Gibson-Park doesn't have success behind him but is playing at 100 miles an hour and with the precision his critics initially thought he lacked. Lowe is a free spirit with an eye for anything by the obvious…Lowe is also a greatly improved player since arriving in Dublin…Lancaster has turned him into a decent defender without discouraging his bold ambition," Barnes said.

 

Both players were 'magnificent support runners.'

 

"The Crusaders and All Blacks have long been peerless masters of this support play but Leinster and Ireland are attempting to play with Kiwi fluency," he said.

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