Ouch!! That loss to La Rochelle still hurts and it’s a tough one to take given the form and momentum that was built up going into the final. I’m not going to dwell too much on it because, well, it’s just such a frustrating and agonising game to go over. However, as much as the disappointment will carry on among Leinster players and their supporters, it could be worse. I mean, we could have three months of wondering about what ifs before the start of next season. But instead, we have one more chance to come away with some celebration and silverware in the form of the URC. It’s not the same thing, but sure when they don’t sell Heineken, Carlsberg will have to do! Anyway, another knockout game awaits the boys in blue and I have a feeling that it will be a comfort to the players and us to watch the lads run out on the RDS tomorrow afternoon, albeit with a lot of grumpy faces!
We’ve been here before, a week after losing to Saracens in the 2019 final (sorry for bringing that up too), Leinster needed to dust themselves off and face Munster in a league knockout game one week later. We won that game by one point and went on to defeat this weekend’s opponents, Glasgow, in the final. Tomorrow, we face a Glasgow team that will be very much up for spoiling any further motivation and spirit left in this Leinster side. They have surely watched last weekend’s game and will be sure to take solace in the fact that their opponents are in fact human after all. Leinster are bleeding at the moment and Glasgow will certainly look for more blood in Dublin.
As I mentioned above, it’s brilliant to have another game this weekend, another chance to move closer to more glory and destroy our nerves again as we enter the knockout stages of our league. So, the train keeps moving forward and this week gives the players a great opportunity to right some wrongs and reinstate themselves as massive contenders for silverware! Feeling a little better?
Below is Leo’s team selection for tomorrow’s game at the RDS, KO 3:15pm:
15. Jimmy O’Brien (51)
14. Jordan Larmour (72)
13. Garry Ringrose (100)
12. Ciarán Frawley (54)
11. Rory O’Loughlin (97)
10. Ross Byrne (126)
9. Jamison Gibson-Park (114)
1. Andrew Porter (89)
2. Dan Sheehan (27)
3. Tadhg Furlong (125)
4. Joe McCarthy (9)
5. James Ryan (56) CAPTAIN
6. Ryan Baird (37)
7. Josh van der Flier (112)
8. Caelan Doris (53)
16. Seán Cronin (205)
17. Cian Healy (247)
18. Michael Ala’alatoa (23)
19. Ross Molony (137)
20. Jack Conan (115)
21. Luke McGrath (173)
22. Harry Byrne (35)
23. Robbie Henshaw (66)
There’s 7 changes to the team that played the Champions Cup final last weekend. The most notable of changes comes at 10 where Sexton misses out on selection and Ross Byrne starts with brother Harry on the bench. Jordan Larmour returns on the wing, and O’Loughlin comes into the squad instead of Lowe who will be rested this week. James Ryan will captain the side and Ryan Baird returns alongside him in the pack. Overall, it’s a very strong starting 15 with 12 Irish internationals, and another 8 internationals on the bench. I really like the bench as it’s packed with power and experience, every player there will be welcome if/when sprung from the sidelines.
Glasgow has selected a very impressive squad for tomorrow too, containing 17 internationals. They will be very much up for this and will feel confident that they may catch Leinster on an off day and be able to impose their game plan on us to cause another upset! They have some serious players this season, a lot of which could cause some serious issues for us if allowed space. They will of course have to deal with a huge Irish international contingent who will be very familiar with the Scottish internationals. It’s a huge game, and honestly could go to the wire.
Where the game will be won
Since losing the final last week (second last time I swear), it’s been a massive low as a supporter and a very tough week of reading through the various writeups about how bad we were and how amazing La ROGchelle is. So all in all a great week for Munster and the media. I can only imagine how the players themselves are feeling, it must be very difficult to pick yourself up and get straight back into training. For some it’ll be a very welcome opportunity as they get to take their minds off the loss and focus on another game this weekend. And it’s that focus which will be key for Leinster. They will need to push last weekend out of their minds to a degree and draw on the hunger that they felt going into a final, and of course the pain of losing, into their performance this weekend; but in a very controlled and structured way. Cool heads will be important and also a return to the style of attack that we have been loving to see all the way through this tournament. We need to get back to scoring tries, and scoring them first in order to get the tails up and reigniting the spark across the team.
Glasgow will feel like they are taking on Leinster at the right time and will want to stamp out any hope within the Leinster side early on. They will come out all guns blazing and I expect them to put in a very bruising performance in the first half and cause as much damage to hopefully create a cushion on the scoreboard going into half time.
Surely Leinster will feel that they can expect as much tomorrow afternoon and will have their own game plan to counteract. Based on the results throughout the season and current table rankings (Leinster 1st, Glasgow 8th), the signs look good in terms of a home quarter final win. However, like last weekend (last time I promise), we didn’t turn up in my opinion and were unable to adapt to a clever game plan designed to thwart our attacking strengths.
All that being said, Leinster have much more ammunition and skillpower to turn over the Scots. They do however have to show up and throw the ball around. This weeks’ game will be all about opening up the opponents defence and score tries, which will be a change to some other recent game that I’m not going to mention……. Leinster will need to stay focused, get the basics right, and send Larmour dancing around like a ballerina like he did against Munster the other week. If we can control the forwards battle and keep discipline issues to a minimum, then lots of scores will follow. Glasgow won’t turnover easy tomorrow so Leinster will need to put in the hard graft in order to wear them down. Do that and it’s semi final madness at the RDS next week! If that happens, then I’ll certainly start to feel a little better, won’t you?
It’s knockout rugby and anyone can win on the day. All bets are off. It’s 15 against 15 for 80 minutes. That’s enough of the cliches, so I’ll get off the fence and go with a win for Leinster. I don’t think Leinster will allow themselves get fooled twice in one week and they’ll look to revert to their true form and blitz their way to the semi final. My cheeky prediction is that we’ll get on the scoreboard early and keep our noses in front from there on. I don’t think it’ll be champaign rugby as there’ll be some sore bodies and sore heads in that squad, but it’ll be enough to show the Leinster faithful that they’re back and ready to go again!
Leinster 40 – Glasgow 16
Match day result: Leinster 76 – Glasgow 14
COME ON YOU BOYS IN BLUE!! #drivefor5