THERE IS A certain feeling of calmness about Leinster this week.
Ulster, their opponents tomorrow night, have been doing their best to straddle that fine line between reaching to make history and treating a Pro12 semi-final in the RDS as they would any other 80 minutes. Meanwhile, the serial winners within the blue camp have been able to put on a cool, confident exterior. Albeit a cool exterior that’s more steel than snow thanks to events on 30 April.
“30 – 6, you don’t forget that anytime soon,” Isa Nacewa said after today’s captain’s run in Ballsbridge.
“They are on form, 18 tries in the last four games alone and they’re playing an exciting brand of rugby. After being on the end a hiding up in Kingspan a few weeks ago, we don’t need too much motivation.”
Along with the intense resolve of an experienced team with a point to prove, the weather on Leinster’s home patch could tilt the advantage their way too. After experiencing the best version of Ulster in dry conditions in Ravenhill, showers are forecast and that will encourage Leo Cullen’s pack to tighten the game up, hammering home what looks like a considerable set-piece advantage.
“Set-piece is something we really pride ourselves on,” says Cullem, “we look for dominance in that area and work incredibly hard on the scrum with John Fogarty and some of the front rowers we have.
“It’s a big focus point for us, and hopefully we’ll get some good rewards there. Same with the line-out and maul: it’s important we’re focused on those areas if the conditions deteriorate, because if they do, those areas become massive in these games.
“We know it’s going to be a tough challenge. They’re a team in really good form at the moment, playing very confident rugby.”
Source: Gary Carr/INPHO
Off the field though, the easy confidence belongs solely to one team, represented today by the man they voted captain at the beginning of the season, a wily old Aucklander with a handy knack of being in the right place at the right time.
“As a whole back-line we took a lot of learnings out of that game and we just need to be better. Being in play-off footy there are no second chances… it’s been a good week,” Nacewa says, stopping himself short before the unavoidable cliches of knockout rugby take over.
“We’re just lucky to be back and have the opportunity to play another 80 minutes of footy when other teams are on holidays.
“To be here is exciting enough, we’re just preparing for Friday.”
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