THERE has been no over-the-top Heineken Cup celebrations as Leinster seek to secure an unique European and Magners League double at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Rival coaches Joe Schmidt and Tony McGahan might be on a collision course, but there is huge respect between the two and Saturday’s game is a perfect climax to a season that has brought contrasting fortunes to the two Irish and European heavyweights.
McGahan is convinced Schmidt and lead players such as skipper Leo Cullen and Irish icon Brian O’Driscoll won’t let success get in the way of further ambition.
“Yes,” said McGahan, “it makes for a great climax to the season, there couldn’t have been a better script, not with what has gone on in the last few weeks, but it’s going to be really tough.
“The path Leinster took to get to the knockout stages was certainly one of the most difficult. To go through Leicester and Toulouse after that, navigate a way to a final and then come back in the second-half speaks volumes. To come back from 16 points in a big game like that is a tremendous reflection of the belief that they have.”
Which is why McGahan figures Leinster won’t be content with a European Crown and he knows Schmidt is busily planning for the double.
McGahan paid huge tribute to Leinster for what he described as one of the biggest and best comebacks in the history of competitive rugby in Cardiff last week.
“They weren’t too far off in the first-half, they had a couple of passes stuck that could have opened up, but they didn’t. Afterwards, the power and continuity of their play was really evident and crucial.
“But to regroup and come back with a change of focus, to execute, to continue believing in what they were doing, to turn the scrum (problem) around was excellent.”
“We are not focusing on trying to change anything,” said the coach. “Two weeks ago we played some great rugby but didn’t finish off as well as we could, we left a number of tries out there and you can do that maybe against Ospreys but I don’t think you can do that against Leinster, you need to take every chance you can.
“Our try record is disappointing, we probably need to score a try at the weekend to beat them: they are a team that puts points on the board; we are going to need to get over the line.
“That’s the challenge of the game, physicality hopefully won’t be a problem for us, it’s the last game of the year and we are playing at home against probably our biggest rivals and they are coming here as European champions.”
Leinster will face a huge challenge in this game too. Munster, despite having had to endure problems in the past, will be ready for a tough encounter and they will also recognise it is an opportunity to put some things right between the two teams.
Beating the European champions would be a good starting point.
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