DAVID WALLACE has been around the block enough times to know nothing is guaranteed for either side in the Magners League grand final at Thomond Park tomorrow.
Leinster come to Limerick as Heineken Cup champions seeking a unique double; Munster crave a somewhat satisfying end to a decent season edged with disappointment, but Wallace believes it’s all to play for, trophies or no trophies.
He made no secret of the fact that he was somewhat jealous of what Leinster had achieved last week, although he gave them full and lavish credit for their European victory and warned his colleagues at the same time.
“Watching Leinster, you never, ever, bet against them, even at 16 points down,” he said. “They are a team that can really turn it on. They were not that far away from it in the first half, it was a couple of breaks they had where the final pass or something else just didn’t go right for them. But the way they focused and everything afterwards was impressive.”
Beyond tomorrow, Wallace will certainly have personal competition for his place on the Irish team and he is well aware that Sean O’Brien, newly crowned European player of the year, poses the biggest threat.
But, again, Wallace was full of praise for his rival. “He has been one of the best, if not the best, ball carriers in Europe this season. He thoroughly deserves it.”
On that subject, Wallace realises that he will have his work cut out for him tomorrow. “Yes,” he said, “Leinster have a fantastic back row but they have ball carriers in the front row too. It is very much part of their strength at the moment.
“They will go into this game trying to protect their reputation as Heineken Cup champions and going for the double. From an Irish point of view, the management team must be licking their lips. They probably couldn’t have planned it any better. There are places up for grabs, but there are every time you throw on a jersey.
“In that situation, when you’re out there you’re in a trial game. You kind of forget about what happened before and focus on doing your best in that. That is all you can do.”
He’s in no doubt that Leinster won’t focus on what happened in Cardiff last week but on the possibility of becoming the first Heineken Cup and Magners League double champions.
“They will probably put last week to bed knowing they are facing into this match; it is bound to be intense as any derby is. Physically it’s as much as you will get in any game.”
Any suggestion that Munster might benefit at having a week more to prepare for this final isn’t something Wallace agrees with.
“I would take the favourites tag totally out of this game,” he said. “It’s a unique game. Basically, the team who plays as well as they can, makes the least amount of mistakes and shows up with the best attitude is going to win it. Everything else goes out the window, except for what happens in those 80 minutes.”
Being the last game of the season, Munster will be left with a number of gaps as certain players move on. Wallace explained how it might feel.
“I suppose there will be added emotion but the game is all important and we can’t lose sight of that. The fact that guys are leaving will add to the whole spice of the match but it shouldn’t cloud over anything.
“I don’t think any more passion or motivation is needed. Obviously guys are leaving, and we’ve dealt with that in the last few weeks. We’ve had receptions for guys and spoken about how much they have meant to the squad. We’ve dealt with that to a large extent.
“It’s an emotional time of the year. It’s the best and the worst time of the season, because you have finals at stake but at the other side you have guys leaving who you would have been friends with for many years. It’s kind of a double edged sword in that sense. But keeping your eyes on the prize is what’s important now.”
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