Sport Rugby

Thursday 14 December 2017

Fitzgerald insists Leinster ready to front up for five-day challenge

Luke Fitzgerald attempts to cut through the Castres defence
Luke Fitzgerald attempts to cut through the Castres defence
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

It was a case of out of the frying pan and into the ice bath for Leinster's players on Sunday afternoon as the preparations for Friday's make-or-break clash with the Ospreys began as soon as the final whistle went in Castres.

Matt O'Connor's team do not have much time to enjoy their win in France as the visit of the Welsh region comes into focus and the short turnaround between two huge games begins.

While they were known to be unhappy with the scheduling when the fixtures were announced, the three-time European champions now have to get on with the job of replenishing their players after a mammoth effort against the French champions on a soft pitch in warm weather.

The players went straight into the icy water after full-time and then began replenishing their lost fluids and calories as they made their way to the airport for their flight home.

As professionals, they have become used to managing their bodies and Luke Fitzgerald says that the narrow window is a fact of life.

"It's pretty normal. Sometimes you just get stuck with that shorter turnaround and you've got to front up," he said.

"There's lots of teams that have a five-day turnaround now and then. It's not ideal but you get on with it, and it's same for the Ospreys.

"It's not like sometimes in the league where the other team might have a seven-day turnaround and you've a five-day turnaround.

"But look, it's the same for the Ospreys so there's no excuse. Both teams will go out Friday and be ready to go.

"In fairness they managed us pretty well during last week as well in training, so I'm not worried about the turnaround, even though it's a short one.

"Ideally you'd want an extra day, just more so for prep than anything else, but the guys are usually very organised so no real excuses going into next week."

Forwards coach Jono Gibbes admitted that the first two days after a tough game are pivotal to being ready for the next match and he said they would look at mixing things up in terms of selection, with Cian Healy and Shane Jennings having made a big impact off the bench in Castres, while Rhys Ruddock will come back into contention.

"I think it more goes onto the coaching staff to get the preparation and the clarity right," he said. "I guess that's where we kind of earn our money in the 48 hours (after the game) and then it's just about putting it back together with the guys after that 48 hours.

"It's difficult. Round 6 is, I think, as big a mental challenge as anything. Maybe a little bit of a selection from us can throw in a little of that energy.

"From the coaching point of view we just need to be smart with how we construct the game for Friday. They're an experienced group, though. They kind of know where they need to be on Friday, so that 48 hours will be crucial."

Leinster are clear on what they face this week as they must beat the Ospreys to qualify from the pool. A home quarter-final looks out of their reach and Fitzgerald admits to some frustration about where the loss to Northampton Saints at home has left his side.

"It's not in our control," he said. "I'm a little bit disappointed to be where we are. Obviously we have to get on with it now. It's our own fault. Against Northampton we didn't show up, so we are where we are.

"Look, we knew coming into these two games we were going to have to win the last two. Northampton won as well (in Round 5) so that keeps the pressure on.

"In front of our own supporters next week we just have a big one. Hopefully we can put in a good performance and get the result."

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