Tadhg Furlong says Leinster continue to be defined by their performances in the Champions Cup as they gear up for Saturday’s quarter-final against champions Exeter Chiefs.
Leo Cullen’s men secured a fourth successive PRO14 title two weeks ago before they were awarded a walkover into the last eight of the Champions Cup after opponents Toulon were unable to field a team last Friday night.
Having exited to English opposition at the quarter-final stage last season, Furlong is determined to take the next step against the holders as they go in search of a fifth title.
“It’s massive,” he said of the Champions Cup. “When I started and joined the club they had that period of sustained success, they had the three stars at the stage when I started playing first-team rugby and then we went off the boil for a few years.
“There were some lads in the dressing-room with three medals and they knew what it took. Then there was a bunch of younger lads with no medals.
“It’s such a barometer of where we at in our season and there is so much emphasis on it and because of our history it means so much to players and you want to be part of a group that challenges and tries to win more trophies.
“The legacy has done it and you want to write it into our future as well. So it’s massive.”
Cullen is likely to stick closely to the team he named for the cancelled Toulon game, although he may consider recalling Scott Fardy to the side as he looks to combat the English team’s close-contact work.
Exeter have not beaten Leinster in four previous attempts, but their director of rugby Rob Baxter believes they’ve never been better set up to take down the four-time champions
“We’ve met a few times and they’ve come out on top, but I think we’ve moved on to a degree now where - I’m not saying we meet on a level playing field - but in some ways it’s far more level than to talk about past history too much,” he said.
“If we talked about past history then Exeter would never be anywhere near the final of the Premiership or the European Cup, and we’ve now won both.
“It’s more about talking about the here and now, and the here and now is that we have an expectation to do well in Europe and the Premiership, and so do Leinster, and that’s the clash of two clubs who are expecting to do well.”