Leinster fans are desperately hoping to avoid a humiliating fifth European defeat in a row this weekend, but for prop Tadhg Furlong there’s excitement in the air, not fear.
English Premiership side Bath come to the RDS on Saturday with a Champions Cup quarter-final place in their sights, but the hosts are already out, having lost their opening four pool matches for the first time ever.
Players and staff have spoken of playing for ‘pride’ and ‘momentum’ or ‘owing’ the fans, but as far as the versatile front-rower from Wexford is concerned, it’s a positive time to be in blue.
“It’s more excitement [than fear],” he insists, “we’ve been building really well.“If you look back at those early games, even the game against Wasps, we controlled a lot of the ball and possession but we just didn’t score and then they got a few breakaway tries.
“[We were] close against Bath in the Rec, the same with Toulon home and away.
“The small margins were letting us down. Then we came back into the Pro12 and things were really clicking for us, we’re building well.
“So everyone is excited.
“We’re really, really close to clicking and we got closer to that again last weekend.”
Ospreys were the latest team to feel the brunt of a revitalised Leinster side, who have now won seven Pro12 games on the bounce.
But at the top table, the Champions Cup, they’ve failed to register a single win, with only two losing points in the bag, although encouragingly one of those came in the 19-16 away defeat to Bath last November.
Bath went down 12-9 to defending champions Toulon in last weekend’s rescheduled clash, and Furlong knows they’ll come to Dublin with plenty to inspire them.
“They have it all to play for, they have to beat us and Toulon to have a chance of qualifying, to keep their season going,” he said.
“They’ll be really pushing for a win to keep their season going. They’ve been playing well and just not getting the results that they deserved.
“They were really impressive against Toulon and if it weren’t for a couple of bits of luck, the result could have gone the other way.
“I was really impressed with them, they were unlucky to concede those two final penalties. But to put on a performance like that before a really hostile crowd was impressive.”
With Mike Ross still out injured, Furlong hopes to make it three starts from four on Saturday, a run that could boost his chance of Six Nations involvement.
Having been a late call up to last year’s World Cup and been involved in last week’s training camp in Carton House, Furlong is eager to keep his name in the mixer.
“Yeah, I honestly don’t know which way the Six Nations is going to go, whether they bring three or four tight-heads in,” he said.
“So I suppose over the next few weeks, you still want to have the opportunity to try to force your way into that squad. I have a real narrow focus, starting with Bath this weekend and that’s what I’m aiming for.
“I’m focusing on this game and doing well in it.
“I’d love to be involved in the Six Nations and to be there you have to be playing well. Forget about Ireland for a minute — at Leinster there is really good competition for places, especially in the front-row. Everyone wants to put on a good performance.”
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