Former Crusaders coach Goodman draws healthy comparisons with Leinster’s squad strength

New Zealander looking forward to the challenge of the ‘best club competition in the world’

All the indications are that Andrew Goodman has had a positive impact at Leinster. Replacing the popular Felipe Contepomi was no easy task but in addition to having played with the province for two seasons a decade ago, Goodman had been part of the all-conquering Crusaders coaching ticket for two years.

It helps, of course, when your team has eight wins from eight games, albeit the stakes will rise again when Leinster begin their Heineken Champions Cup campaign against Racing 92 at the Stade Océane in Le Havre next Saturday (kick-off 1pm Irish time, live on BT Sport and RTÉ Radio). But the feeling is evidently mutual.

“First of all, I am loving it; loving the challenge, loving the excitement of these weeks. This is one of the main reasons I came over here to be part of the best club competition in the world – the Champions Cup. Day one of the first week heading into a game like Racing against a team that’s playing the way they are, it’s exciting and I’m looking forward to it.”

Also highlighting the playing group and working with Stuart Lancaster, Goodman declared: “I’m so happy that I made the decision to come over.”

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Goodman hailed the “amazing” 14-man comeback win over Ulster last Saturday and noted that the attacking cohesion should only improve.

“The preparation and the game that we got against a very good Ulster team, a physical team, I think that’s going to put us in great stead going away to a tough opener in Europe.”

He’s also been struck by the level of support, notably the 45,000 at the Aviva for the Munster game, whereas at the Crusaders “we are generally waiting until finals day to get those sorts of crowds”.

A similarity has been “the competitiveness of both squads” he says, adding: “You know there are going to be some disappointed lads this week that are missing out on the 23, that are going to have a massive part in setting up the starting group to perform well.

“Funny enough, there are still some of the same calls that have stuck around for 10-12 years and some of the language that we use,” he added when comparing with his two seasons as a player.

“Stuart has come over and obviously added his flavour into the way we play the game. His philosophy on the way we play is very much aligned with how I see the game being played. I love the way they train here on-field at Leinster.”

Goodman could be a contender for promotion when Lancaster moves on to Racing next season. “I am always looking to progress,” said Goodman, but added: “I’m not in any rush to go like that straight away.” In soaking up as much information as he can from Lancaster, Goodman added: “I’m really concentrated on making sure I do a very good job in my role first.”

Goodman has also known Leo Cullen for a decade. “It was probably the second year when we were both on the injured list we got to know each other pretty well,” he recalled with a wry grin. “We’ve been in regular contact. There was a strong link between Crusaders and Leinster over that Covid time, we analysed each other and had some conversations and debate about who would beat each other, if we were to play each other.”

The signs appear relatively encouraging about Johnny Sexton (calf) and Tadhg Furlong (ankle), both of whom will be assessed this week. “They are out doing some running today so we’ve just got to assess and get them through the different protocols,” said Goodman.

But were Sexton ruled out Goodman has clearly developed the same faith in Ross Byrne as the other coaches.

“When you saw the influence he had over the [Ulster] game when we did go down to 14 men, his leadership was crucial in a number of big moments there. He sees the game so well, he’s just a great student of the game. Around breaking down defences as well, we always have some good discussions leading into the game. I’ve been really impressed with the way he operates both on and off the field.”

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times