Sport Rugby

Sunday 21 January 2018

Buzz around our squad has us all relishing final

We expect a really tough physical encounter with Glasgow after satisfying manner of Ulster victory

Shane Jennings is expecting a tough test against Glasgow. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Shane Jennings is expecting a tough test against Glasgow. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Shane Jennings

After a great day for the province on Saturday, it all comes down to the last day of the season and where else would you want to be as a player? It's winner takes all, in what is going to be a hugely difficult game for us against Glasgow.

We are used to playing them in both the Pro12 and in the Heineken and, with their international contingent as well, there is a fair degree of familiarity between both squads. There is certainly a healthy respect there and we have a huge week or so ahead of us to prepare for them.

Thankfully, we are there though, and there is a degree of satisfaction in that all the hard work which has gone into the season so far has put us in a place to challenge for a trophy. The Pro12 is our bread and butter. Finishing top of the table is great and the advantages of doing so are obvious for the play-offs, but you want more. You want silverware.

Saturday was an extremely difficult game and Ulster deserve so much credit and respect for what they have done this season. They are a great team with quality players and we had to dig very deep to come away with the win.

The win was immensely satisfying due to the manner in which we came from behind to get the result. I think a lot of players deserve credit for the way they stuck to the task and didn't panic in any way when we were under pressure. Ulster came out of the blocks fast and had us under pressure from the early stages of the game.

Their scrum was solid and, as always, their line-out was operating well. Thankfully, our defence held strong and for all the pressure we were under, we were only six points down going into half-time and to be honest, we were able to take heart from that and knew that while it would not be easy, they were within touching distance.

They did kick on to go nine up in the second half, but thankfully we steadied the ship and held on to the ball a little better, which allowed us the opportunity to get into the Ulster '22' and build some pressure. That bit of pressure turned into points and we felt we had a chance if we continued to look after the ball.

It was very pleasing to see the impact all our subs made when they came on and it shows a real quality to the depth in our squad. People really stood up and they kicked us on when we needed it.

It also gives a boost to us on the pitch to see the likes of Jack, Seanie, Leo, Mads and Zane coming on as you know how well they are motoring in training and how eager they will be to make an impact. That they certainly did.

There is obviously a great buzz around the club at the moment and we are delighted to be involved in another final. But it's also a big week for the remainder of the squad, who will be taking on Leeds this evening in Donnybrook in the B&I Cup final.

It's an important week for the B&I Cup team and that has been the main focus of everybody to prepare the lads for tonight's game. We were given Monday off and were back in on Tuesday, with a number of the lads away in the Irish camp, after the 30-man selection for the tour was announced.

There is a good representation of Leinster lads going on the tour and they deserve it after playing well all season.

Once tour squads are announced, it gives all the lads some clarity to plan their holidays and there has been a fair bit of chat this week in training of various holiday plans and foreign excursions.

The off-season is fairly well maintained and revolves around when you last played a game. The majority of us will get four-weeks' holiday from the last game of the season, which will bring us back to pre-season training in early July.

The lads that go on tour will get four weeks from the last game on tour, so for some players, it's still a bit away. For others, they will be taking a well-earned break and take the time to recover and recharge the batteries before another season begins.

Hopefully we can go into next week with one trophy in the cabinet and have a real focus for what is going to be an extremely physical encounter against a quality side that have really hit some good form in the last few weeks.

It's going to be a massive challenge for us, but it's one we are delighted to be involved in and we will give it everything to try and hold on to our title.

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