Leinster's biggest foe ahead of Pro14 semis
SPOTLIGHT: Defending Pro14 champions Leinster may start as overwhelming favourites in their semifinal against Munster at the Aviva Stadium on Friday, but the danger of complacency could be their biggest foe right now.
Leinster have swept all before them, are unbeaten this season and since returning have beaten both Ulster and Munster in their two return games. And while they will be eyeing European glory in the weeks to come, they know they face a dangerous foe this Friday.
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster will be doing his best to drum this home, especially with Munster coming within two points of them a fortnight ago, and the former England coach has memories of a weekend in 2017 when his team weren’t as focused as they could be, and it cost them dearly.
“You have to change your mindset, because it’s absolutely irrelevant how many games we’ve won prior to this semifinal,” said Lancaster.
“I remember the 2016/17 season we played some great rugby across the board, scored 90 odd tries in the season but we lost against Scarlets in the Pro14 semifinal and that defeat still sticks in everyone’s throats until this day.
“It’s irrelevant what you’ve done previously, it’s about flicking that switch and understanding what knockout rugby really means. There is enough experience in the room to know that, but it’s not a bad thing to remind them once or twice.”
— Leinster Rugby (@leinsterrugby) August 31, 2020
Munster will be buoyed by the fact they came close two weeks back, losing by two points and followed it up with a big win over Connacht to give themselves hope. Lancaster will be drumming home the idea that this week is all that matters.
“It’s all on this week. There’s no doubt in my mind that if you start thinking too far ahead about finals or quarterfinals or semifinals in Europe, then you’re going to come unstuck this weekend against a team that’s highly motivated, extremely well-coached, full of high-quality players who haven’t got a European competition to worry about.
“This is their season, it’s our season. You don’t want to put all the work into a Pro14 season and then come unstuck in a semifinal by not preparing properly and giving it the credit it deserves.
“People have worked too hard for that so there’s absolutely no doubt. It feels like a big week this week and I can guarantee you no one is thinking about next week.”
With an epic battle being expected, Lancaster was a bit sad that there won’t be fans cheering on both sides this weekend.
“I was just saying to Leo [Cullen], it’s such a shame that there isn’t 50 000 in the Aviva watching it because I think it’s going to be one of those games that’s going to be right up there in terms of intensity and what it means to both teams,” he said.
“You can certainly sense it in our camp this week and I hope it translates through on TV but it would have been an amazing semi-final occasion I think.”