Sport Leinster Rugby

Monday 15 October 2018

Momentum crucial for Fogarty as Blues build for Scarlets clash

With two games against the Italian teams in the lead-up to the Champions Cup semi-final, Leinster could hardly have asked for better preparation. (stock picture)
With two games against the Italian teams in the lead-up to the Champions Cup semi-final, Leinster could hardly have asked for better preparation. (stock picture)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

With two games against the Italian teams in the lead-up to the Champions Cup semi-final, Leinster could hardly have asked for better preparation.

The majority of the front-line players will be rested this week following a bruising win over Saracens as the others' minds begin to turn towards Zebre.

Confidence is such that Leo Cullen and Stuart Lancaster will feel that they could put any team out against the ever-improving Italians and get the job done, so from that end the biggest threat to their side will be complacency.

There is an onus on the players picked for tomorrow's clash at the RDS to ensure that the feel-good atmosphere in the club is carried on until the Scarlets arrive in Dublin in three weeks' time.

Striking the right balance in team selection will also be crucial. The coaching duo have rewarded players for form this season, and they will need to adopt a similar mindset for the run-in in both the Guinness PRO14 and Europe.

"We need cohesion, we need a team that's comfortable," scrum coach John Fogarty maintains.

"They did a great job coming from what was a great Six Nations, and those players that were involved in that adapted so well in within a short space of time to actually fit into a new system in defence and attack, calling systems... They took all the information and executed it very, very well on the day.

"Do you keep playing that team? How do you map it out? These are the things that Leo and Stuart and myself and Girvan (Dempsey) will talk about, with the medical staff, and we'll see how bodies are.

"We have to get our team up and running, there has to be cohesion in the side so we can sustain pressure.

"Again, that first half in terms of defending... The composure that players had, their voice, their chat during the game, it was really good. They are the decisions that will have to be made.

Impressive

"For this week, we're going to have to pick 23-24 really fit players to take on Zebre because they've got some real big lumps, their games against Connacht were very impressive, how they did it.

"Brads (Michael Bradley) is doing a really good job with them and he'll have them fired up to come over here to get a scalp.

"So we need fit bodies on the field first of all for this weekend because we understand that if we get a home (PRO14) semi that it gives us some time to prep for that Scarlets game and that's important."

As much as the focus will have been on Zebre this week, in the back of the minds of the players and coaches will have been the Scarlets.

Having beaten Leinster in the PRO12 semi-final with 14 men in Dublin last year, before going on to see off Munster in the final at the Aviva, the Scarlets will not fear returning to the capital.

Under Wayne Pivac, the Welsh side have gone from strength to strength and behind the scenes, Leinster will already be preparing for the kind of threat that they will bring.

"The Scarlets attack, it's a massive handful," Fogarty adds.

"They play such an unstructured game, and they've the ability to keep the ball alive.

"They become very difficult. Their turnover, how they attack you from turnovers... Like you're attacking and going quite well, and they turn you over and all of a sudden you've a broken defensive line and they're coming at you hard.

"So their transition from that turnover to attack has hurt us massively in the past.

"Stuart has coached an awful lot of unstructured rugby with us so we do play and train that way.

"But we've found it difficult playing against Scarlets. They've got a good pack and a very dangerous backline and they're full of confidence, they're not going to fear coming to the Aviva Stadium.

"So I think they'll be looking forward to that game, they'll box it off too because they'll be desperately trying to win these two games as well."

Keeping the momentum going against Zebre tomorrow will set Leinster up nicely for the big one.

Irish Independent

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