HUGO KEENAN’S FIRST touch last weekend was exactly the kind of attacking contribution Leinster and Ireland have been encouraging him to make this season.
Both teams want their fullback to be a playmaker and distributor, along with nailing the usual backfield and aerial duties, and 24-year-old Keenan is happy to embrace a little more responsibility.
In this instance, Keenan [white below] sets up off out-half Ross Byrne following a Rónan Kelleher linebreak into the Munster 22.
As flanker Rhys Ruddock [red below] then runs a hard line to give Byrne a direct front-door option, Keenan bounces out the back.
With Ruddock’s convincing run attracting Munster’s Damian de Allende, Keenan’s run challenges Joey Carbery – who is initially also worried about Ruddock – before the Leinster fullback releases centre Rory O’Loughlin into space.
Leinster have a clear try-scoring chance but Keith Earls’ excellent defence – sitting off O’Loughlin and then feinting to close on him before drifting off again – contributes towards a real missed opportunity.
Still, it’s a nice early involvement on the ball for Keenan, who soon shows more nice handling skills wide on the right to give Larmour time on the ball.
Later in the half, Keenan’s support line allows Josh van der Flier to offload to him for a clean linebreak, with the Leinster fullback showing fine awareness and decision-making to find Robbie Henshaw running another strong support line on his right shoulder.
This example also illustrates Keenan’s outstanding work-rate as he gets around the corner having fielded a Munster kick and carried the ball just three phases earlier.
Keenan had several other nice passes in Leinster’s Guinness Pro14 final win.
The instance below sees him once again offer Byrne a back-door option, this time behind a two-man forward pod, and release a well-timed pass to allow Leinster to threaten up the right-hand side.
Former Ireland 7s international Keenan’s growing comfort as the second receiver was obvious last weekend and the 24-year-old is happy to be taking some of the burden off the likes of Byrne.
“Yeah, definitely trying to help out the 10s and centres as much as possible and organising those forwards. It happened a good bit on the weekend, I just found myself in those positions. Sometimes it just happens, sometimes you are in those positions.