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How a mindset switch has led to increase in performance standards for Ulster's Nick Timoney

 

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No kidding: Nick Timoney has been impressed with Leinster’s emerging talents

No kidding: Nick Timoney has been impressed with Leinster’s emerging talents

�INPHO/James Crombie

No kidding: Nick Timoney has been impressed with Leinster’s emerging talents

Ahead of Leinster coming to Kingspan Stadium tomorrow evening, Nick Timoney understands the depth available to the visitors more than most.

While the three-in-a-row Guinness PRO14 champions come north looking to seal their spot in this year's final without a litany of front-line stars thanks to international duty, their understudies have not let standards slip this season, with their form through this campaign's long Test windows nothing less than imperious.

Despite regularly missing up to 20 players, Leo Cullen's men have been required to not only win their games but do so with a relentless accumulation of bonus-points.

With their second and even third string line-ups having been up to that challenge, they come to Belfast boasting a six-point advantage in the table with only three left to play.

Even as a two-time Leinster Schools' Cup winner at Blackrock College, the latter of the two coming when captain, and an Irish Under-20s international, Timoney never moved beyond the sub-Academy at his native province and, if anything, the level of depth has only strengthened since his time in the set-up.

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"(You look at their back-row), and they are nine or 10 deep with quality players," he says. "There are lads who will be just outside the Ireland 23 that are still Leinster players and even if none of their international players play, they still have quality right down to their 19- and 20-year-olds.

"It is pretty impressive, the consistency, and it has been the last three seasons or even more when they have lost a lot of players to international duty. It is impressive how they can have two completely different 23s and manage to play quite similarly and play to a similar standard.

"No matter what team they put out, we know the challenge is coming.

"It is obvious they are very impressive and it is going to be a huge task for us. I think we are going to have to step up from what we have played the last couple of weeks."

 

Timoney himself has already been taking that step. Man of the match last time out against Ospreys, the 25-year-old has struck upon a rich vein of form that is all the more welcome given it has coincided with confirmation of fellow No.8 Marcell Coetzee's summer departure.

It is less than three months ago that Timoney was running out for the 'A' side on a Champions Cup weekend but, since Christmas, he has been one of the best performers in the side.

The upturn, he believes, has been aided by his mental approach.

"It's a mindset thing, I think," he says. "I'd been in and out of the team or on the fringes of the team for a while and I got quite uptight in the way I played. I was worrying about selection all the time and that wasn't getting me picked at all.

"I realised I wasn't focusing on the right things, I wasn't focusing on going out, enjoying myself and playing my own game and playing it well. I was focusing on what can I not mess up.

"Since then, it has just been a case of 'I think I'm a good player, I back myself and play the way I like to play.' I don't think too much about things, I just focus on being aggressive, using my athleticism and just going out to play.

"Not playing for a long time sort of gives you a perspective and that helped me to switch about the way I go about things on and off the pitch.

"I don't think there was anything too specific or I didn't change anything too drastic but I kept working hard on what I had always worked hard on and what I think my strengths are."

Belfast Telegraph


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