Leinster Rugby, Irish Rugby, Aviva Stadium
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Joe Schmidt’s phone call was a game-changer for Andrew Goodman. He was working for the Tasman Rugby Union in New Zealand in rugby development and also teaching in Nelson College, his old school, when Schmidt invited him to come to Leinster.
The soon to be Ireland coach may have reshaped the European champions into the number one side at this end of the rugby playing world, but part of his brief is to also know who and what Honda Heat, Nelson College and the Tasman Makos are – and Goodman had played for all of them.
Plucked from obscurity – like Schmidt himself originally and set into the Leinster mould, Goodman’s epic journey from journeyman development officer to back-up centre for Gordon D’Arcy has fallen well. This season he has played 16 times for the team.
The son of teachers, mum Trish and father John, his move on a one-year contract – which has been rolled over for another year – was as much a cultural exchange as a chance to kick-start a fully-fledged professional career at 29 years of age. He’s now 30 and enjoying the ride.
Injuries along the back line as well as players slipping off for international duty with Ireland gave Goodman enough game time not to be churning over on the bench wondering whether he had made the right choice.
His solid play is quite the foil for the excitable assembly line of Leinster Academy players now punching through into the squad.
“I am coming back for one more year,” he says. “I love the environment here, learning off some of the best players in the world.”
While his role is defined as much by the availability of those around him, Goodman has started several of Leinster’s bigger games this season, including the home and away legs of the Heineken Cup matches against Clermont.
As the players watched analysis clips of the likely Clermont starting team for the first leg, it dawned on him two former All Blacks, Benson Stanley and Regan King, couldn’t make the walk-on side. In France, it was the biggest crowd, at 17,000, he had ever played in front of until the return leg in Aviva, where Leinster fell in front of 50,000 supporters.
“The great thing about Leinster is if you are performing at training and on the field Joe always gives you a chance,” he adds having just heard the name of the incoming coach, Matt O’Connor.
“I haven’t had much time to think about it (O’Connor). I suppose at this time of the year we’re just concentrating on semis and finals so we haven’t really talked about it too much,” he says before spreading some optimism.
“I know the incoming coach has a very good reputation, he did a great job over at Leicester, and the Brumbies before that. I’ve heard a couple of the boys say he’s coming very highly rated so I’m looking forward to that next year.”
This weekend, there is little Leinster don’t know. The sides met in the RDS at the end of March, where Ian Madigan scored all of Leinster’s 22 points, including the match -winning try 10 minutes from the end of the match.
Gregor Townsend’s side started the stronger and led at half-time but were unable to get the scoreboard ticking over as quickly as they might, allowing Leinster to stay in contention and finally close them out.
But Glasgow will come on Saturday with an idea of how to deal with the home side’s running game.
“Aw, they’ve been playing some great footie this year,” says Goodman. “Looking at the stats, they’ve scored the most tries in the competition this season, play a very open brand and off-loading a lot. They use their backs so we have to be on the spot to make sure we get past them.”
Low key, easy-going, still enjoying the scenery but no longer just there for the ride.