Jack Conan won’t lie. Epic as Leinster’s Champions Cup success last Saturday was, it will be tarnished if the club doesn’t go on and add the Guinness PRO14 title to their collection before the end of the season.
Twice in the past, in 2011 and 2012, Leinster have claimed the European Cup before being denied an historic double in their ‘domestic’ league final, Munster having their number the first time and Ospreys emerging a single point better off 12 months later.
Leinster completed the first leg in Bilbao last Saturday with their Champions Cup victory and they have the opportunity to edge further towards the second this weekend.
“It’s been fantastic,” said Conan who featured off the bench in the 15-12 defeat of Racing 92, “winning at the weekend. When you’re looking back in two or three months’ time, you’d be like, ‘yeah that was a great day’.
“But if we don’t finish on a high it’s definitely going to be tarnished in some way. For the older lads who have that experience when we lost to Ospreys, that will be playing on the back of their minds and something they won’t want to relive.”
Ten of the players who played some part in those two league losses are still on the books at Leinster. Leo Cullen was another. Head coach now, he has admitted before that those defeats tainted that pair of Heineken Cup wins. So did Joe Schmidt, by the by.
Motivation should not be a problem this week.
Not given all that, not with the fact that it is the neighbours from down the road coming to town and not with Johan van Graan making the pointed observation about their desire to inflict defeat on the continental kingpins.
Conan did admit that “one or two of the lads” were taking a tad longer than others to filter the vents in Bilbao out of their systems and he was happy to look back at the dramatic end game on Monday.
But focus, he says, will be total from here on in.
“It’s easy to turn the page when it’s Munster you’re playing,” said Conan. “In previous weeks, we’d massive games and then the next week we probably didn’t have as much on the line and went in and massively underperformed against teams which were up for it more than we were. And that is never an acceptable standard for us.
“It is tough because it was such a massive day in this club’s history (last Saturday) and something that was fantastic to be a part of but, from the past few weeks, nobody wants to sit in the dressing room in that stadium feeling the same way after losing to a Munster side. We won’t be dwelling on (Bilbao) for too long.”
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