Fear factor the key for Reddan
MAINTAINING the fear factor -- that is the key for Leinster and their in-form scrum-half Eoin Reddan this week.
History shows that victories on the road are crucial to any Heineken Cup aspirations and winning in Bath last Sunday sets up the European champions perfectly for Saturday's rematch at Lansdowne Road -- a venue where Leinster have a 100pc record since the stadium reopened and will have the benefit of more than 40,000 of their own festively-fuelled supporters.
However, the nature of the win at the Rec, when Leinster botched several gift-wrapped try opportunities and had to produce a powerful endgame after falling behind with 15 minutes to go, has shattered any danger of complacency in the squad.
"It keeps the fear factor," said Reddan. "It is always important to keep that mix of fear and confidence going into the weekend.
"Hopefully, we'll have that this weekend. We do respect Bath, they made it very hard for us at times both in attack and defence. It showed when they held on to possession for 20, maybe 25 minutes in the first half and we were defending very hard and they were very comfortable doing that.
"We have to be aware of that this week; hopefully, with the crowd behind us as well. It makes it special to be playing in such a big stadium with seven or eight tenths of the crowd being all Leinster."
Leinster held a team meeting before training yesterday, when improving their accuracy was the central theme.
Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney were guilty for the two most blatantly squandered opportunities on Sunday, when they failed to feed men in better scoring positions, but Reddan says there is no need for finger-pointing as the players embrace the responsibility themselves.
"I don't think anyone will look at those situations harder than those two, knowing them," said Reddan. "They are both in so much credit with us. A ball is kicked up in the air and everyone is running back, you expect Rob to catch and he catches the ball.
"Sean is making breaks every week causing tries. You don't start getting on someone's back when that happens in a game where it never normally happens. We do try to move on pretty quickly in games, on to the next thing, and that's what has happened."
Reddan was encouraged by Leinster's response to falling behind in Bath and credited the players' fitness levels and strength of the bench for providing the late impetus.
"We had an excellent bench," said Reddan. "We brought on basically everyone and they added their bit, which is important. Obviously, we do have a very good fitness staff here who work us very hard, know when to rest us and when to keep us working, so that obviously helps as well.
"There would be a general feeling that we would be confident in our fitness in any game. We had them under serious pressure and I think they kind of bottled it and gave away a few penalties towards the end.
"We had two or three good phases of play that brought us up to the '22' that we might have scored a try from maybe around about the 50-minute mark and then again around the 70-minute mark. I thought it was good bottle that we went down and came back into it again.
"It's just a pity we were in that situation in the first place. I thought the team rallied well to come back and win."
Reddan contributed handsomely off the bench himself and the selection fear factor is undoubtedly keeping both he and Isaac Boss on their toes as they battle for the No 9 jersey. Both scrum-halves are playing well in a position of strength for Irish rugby at present and, with Boss generally getting the nod for away matches since Joe Schmidt came in as coach, the smart money is on Reddan starting this weekend.
Going into the rematch with areas to improve on is not the worst place for Leinster to be in, while Bath will arrive in Dublin desperate to build on an improved performance in a season of struggles. It sets things up nicely and, while Reddan concedes that Leinster were "lucky" to get out of the Rec with a win last weekend, they are looking for more control and accuracy second time around.
"We weren't over the moon, which is no disrespect to Bath, because we had one or two opportunities that we just didn't take," he said.
"We kind of felt lucky to come away with the win in the end the way the game had gone, so that was probably the overall feeling. We wouldn't be happy with some of the accuracy, the breakdown could have been better and obviously handling could have been a bit better, so that's what to work on this week."
If Leinster get those areas right this weekend, it is Bath who have reason to be truly fearful.