Wednesday 12 December 2018

Lancaster: I didn't let players get away with 'painful' performance

Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Sportsfile
Stuart Lancaster. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

The personnel in Bilbao tomorrow might well be very different to the side that played in Galway a fortnight ago, but nevertheless Stuart Lancaster has revealed that he dished out a few home truths to players ahead of the Champions Cup final.

Leinster would much rather have gone into tomorrow's decider against Racing 92 on the back of a positive performance but as it is, their second-string side were pummelled by Connacht.

Such is the drive for perfection within the club right now, it is hardly surprising that someone who has played such a key role in getting Leinster back to where they want to be refused to accept that kind of sub-par performance.

"We certainly didn't put it to bed straight away, that's for sure," Lancaster insisted.

"There's obviously a lesson you can learn in every game. We had the Treviso defeat prior to the Scarlets semi-final, and I wouldn't wish the experience of losing at Connacht again.

"As a coach, it was very painful. I was disappointed to see our performance. I certainly didn't let the players off with, 'Don't worry about that, there's a final to play.'

"We reviewed thoroughly and we took our lessons from it. In some ways, it gives you a very good lever about the mindset you need to win in any game.

"I thought Connacht exploited us in a number of different ways that I'm sure Racing will look at. It's a timely reminder for us to fix those things up.

"In another way you flip it on its head and use it as a powerful motivation to get the best out of players. That's certainly what I did last week."

In the grand scheme of things, the Connacht loss won't have much bearing on proceedings this weekend, but it is fascinating to get a snapshot of how the coaches demand high standards of every player, regardless of whether they are first-choice or not.

Improved

Leinster look like a much improved side from the one who were dumped out of the semi-finals by Clermont last year, and it will help too that they have already twice beaten a Montpellier side, who lead the way in the Top 14.

"The key thing in that particular game, we overthrew a couple of lineouts, we got a guy sent to the bin so our discipline wasn't great," Lancaster said, reflecting on last season's Clermont defeat.

"We have played a lot of big games since then. I wouldn't just leave it at Montpellier, who we've played twice and beaten twice.

"We played Exeter home and away, beaten them; beaten Glasgow home and away; beaten Scarlets and beaten Saracens.

"We've had a good run, but it's irrelevant, what happens in the past.

"It's what happens on the day, and certainly a fast start and a good start against a side of the quality of Racing will be key, there's no doubt.

"Particularly when you look at what they did against Munster: it was three tries before they knew it and you're always chasing the game, then."

Leinster might well be strong favourites tomorrow, but Racing pose Lancaster and co serious threats all over the pitch.

"You look at, for instance, (Leone) Nakarawa up front, (Yannick) Nyanga," Lancaster added.

"And then (Pat) Lambie and they've got (Dan) Carter on the bench, but that could be the other way around for this game. Who knows? Vakatawa. So, it's the sum of all their parts that make Racing such a dangerous proposition.

"They are second top of the Top 14 now, they are coming right into form and they have rested their players this week for Agen. The key thing in any game is keeping your defence right and your discipline.

"Wayne Barnes is refereeing. He is an accurate referee. If we respect the breakdown and pick our battles there and we get the right defensive width he can make sure (Teddy) Thomas doesn't get the space he needs. That was the key to the Munster tries. He got the space that he needed to break the line."

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