Felipe Contepomi has stressed the need for Leinster to strike the perfect balance between free-flowing and high-pressure rugby as they attempt to negotiate Glasgow Warriors’ self-styled defensive “brutality” in Saturday’s Guinness PRO14 final.
Leinster will travel to Celtic Park to face a side in its home city that has taken its physical intensity up a notch under the stewardship of Kiwi head coach Dave Rennie. That will not be strange to the defending champions who have faced two huge physical battles in as many weeks having lost the Heineken Champions Cup final to the powerhouse ball-carriers of Saracens a fortnight ago and followed that up with a bruising PRO14 semi-final win over Munster seven days later.
Another week on and the Warriors, who trounced Ulster in their semi-final last Friday night for a fourth straight win since themselves being knocked out of Europe by Saracens at the quarter-final stage, will be brimming with confidence and bristling with energy after back-row forward Rob Harley promised Glasgow would be putting bodies on the line to repel the Boys in Blue in the last game of the campaign.
“I think you see the emphasis,” Harley said. “When we analyse ourselves, when we analyse what we need in games we’re always talking about the physicality in contact, the brutality in defence that you need at this level.
“At this end of the season you have to put your body on the line and leave everything out there, so that’s what we’ve been looking at the last couple of weeks. It’s a measurement we take pride in, in the squad, of how we’re performing.”
Leinster backs coach Contepomi can attest to that having analysed Glasgow’s strengths, Rennie’s team having rebounded from their 56-27 mauling by Saracens on March 30 by brushing aside Ulster, Leinster and Edinburgh in the regular season before hammering Ulster again in the semis with a combined points total of 153 and just 61 conceded.
“Yeah, they’re a very, very good team and they can turn around situations in the blink of an eye,” Contepomi said. “They can turn defensive situations into attack with two, three passes; they have very good individuals as well and they are very well coached.”
With that in mind, Leinster’s attack has to be executed with pinpoint accuracy this Saturday, the former Argentina fly-half believes.
I think that the attack, Leinster are well known for playing for good, flowing rugby but I think we need to make sure that we have the proper balance of high pressure rugby in terms of… these are finals you know?
“It all goes up one level when you get into finals rugby and definitely we would like to have a lot of opportunities but it all starts in small little details of getting the set-piece correct and then making sure we got into our shape on what we practice, moving parts and moving quickly off the ball so that we get into spaces where we want to and then if we can attack.
“But there’s a lot of other things to put in place first to be able pass and play that flowing rugby.
“There’s a lot of things that you’d like and also the opposition will be with more intensity and put more pressure and so it’s hard to find space but I think you have to find the moments and when the moments come, take the opportunities.”
Nor can Leinster afford to be anything but protective of the ball when in possession against a side with the ability to transition so effectively from defence into attack through a dangerous backline anchored at full-back by Stuart Hogg.
“I think it all starts up front, always. Definitely, they have speed and quality in the back three and we’ll have our strategy. It’s more about a whole performance and when you get into finals rugby or into a final, it’s a sequence of small moments.
Every final is different, every game is different and you need to make sure we get those things right: set-pieces, defence and when the chances come, make sure we take them.”