‘To say I’m actually here is unbelievable . . . it’s a pinch-yourself moment’ – Garry Ringrose
Garry Ringrose says Leinster are out to do something special at the Aviva Stadium today as they aim to win the Champions Cup on home soil for the first time.
Ronan O’Gara’s La Rochelle stand in the way of the four-time champions in a rematch of last year’s final, with the boys in blue looking to avenge the last-gasp defeat in Marseille to put a fifth star on their jersey.
For Ringrose, the prospect of claiming the trophy in Dublin makes this an occasion to be savoured.
“It’s difficult to sum up,” the Ireland centre said.
“I grew up in Blackrock and live in Blackrock, only 20 minutes down the road. I grew up going to games in Lansdowne Road, going to the RDS, the Aviva, watching my heroes play.
“Then to get a chance to actually do that . . . when you’re coming up through academies, you’re always chasing something, but to get to stand back and say, ‘now I’m actually here’? It’s unbelievable.
“And to have mates of mine getting on to me looking for tickets – unfortunately, I can’t get a lot of them, but my family is all going, mates all in the crowd and then hopefully a few more Leinster supporters, which is again another pinch-yourself moment.
“That’s what it means, anyway.”
James Lowe and Robbie Henshaw come into the team that won the semi-final over Toulouse three weeks ago, with Rónan Kelleher fit enough for a spot on the bench. Ciarán Frawley has edged out Harry Byrne for the reserve out-half spot.
Leinster expect Tadhg Furlong to be OK, despite the fact he sat out yesterday’s training session.
For La Rochelle, O’Gara restores fit-again Jonathan Danty to the midfield while Paul Boudehent gets the nod over Kerryman Ultan Dillane.
O’Gara is relishing being back at a ground where he won 45 Ireland caps, claimed a famous semi-final win over Leinster in 2006 and won the All-Ireland League with Cork Constitution.
“It’s a home game for me too, you forget. I have such great memories in this stadium, the minute I walked through, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m here’,” the Corkman said.
“You’re in a bit of a time warp because you’re focused, but when you stand back from it, it will be a fantastic occasion and there’s a lot to be proud of. But now is not the moment to be reflective.
“It’s time to drive on, get the best out of our players.”
Leinster coach Leo Cullen said he believes his team are ready to perform, dismissing the idea that last week’s defeat to Munster with a heavily rotated side would prove costly.
“There were a number of players in the stand last weekend and I suppose most of their attention was on this game,” he said.
“So many great battles have taken place to get to this point, so for our guys, it’s really about delivering now.”