Friday 17 August 2018

Playing Munster in final could have been a distraction - Fogarty

Scrum coach John Fogarty. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Scrum coach John Fogarty. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Munster failed to keep up their side of the bargain to give most Irish supporters the dream Champions Cup final, but Leinster believe that could yet be a blessing in disguise.

The Leinster-Munster rivalry takes on a life of its own at the best of times, never mind in a European final, and in many ways, Racing may be more suitable opponents.

The French side might well be a better team than Munster, but playing a team who know you so well brings about many potential pitfalls.

As it is, Racing are a bit more of an unknown quantity for Leinster, but they will have learned a thing or two from the manner in which they dominated their Irish rivals in the early stages in Bordeaux last weekend.

"When you get into a final - we said it after the match - it doesn't really matter," scrum coach John Fogarty said.

"We are going to focus on making sure that we are in the right head space, mentally we're in the right place, that we are going to improve our game, get more out of our performance.

"That is the kind of chat that went on. That is not a cliché line. That is what the chat is. When you watch the game, there are loads of butterflies in your belly.

"If we got Munster we know each other so well. It would be a ferocious game. There would be extra chat around here, extra buzz in Ireland. That would create a distraction in itself when you play Munster.

"With Racing, you look at them and you go, 'Jesus, you've got superstars coming off the bench'.

"You see the power. You see defensively how they stop Munster and apply pressure. It's going to be a huge battle."

Munster were blown away by Racing's fast start, which is something that Leinster will have to be very mindful of when they travel to Bilbao for the decider.

Ability

Leinster have the ability to go toe to toe with Racing more so than Munster did, and they could yet prove decisive.

"It did look like they were stunned a little bit," Fogarty admitted.

"Munster are a great team ad they have a great history in this competition. But they really got stopped and that is something that Racing did throughout that first half. 

"They just applied so much pressure, a little like us. We felt we needed to do that against a team that could play like Scarlets. 

"We had to make sure that we were very physical and very accurate on the ground. 

"Our lads did that as well in the first half where we had to be very intense in everything that we did, had to be very physical.

"There were similarities to those two first halves."

In their demolition job against Scarlets, Leinster went some way to proving that they have learned lessons from last year, but the players and coaches alike will not be fully satisfied unless they get their hands on the trophy on May 12.

A fourth European title beckons and Leinster believe that they are in a good place to go and finish the job against Racing.

"In the last couple of years, we've come undone," Fogarty added.

"We had to take learnings from those games. We had to think about how our mental approach was.  Did we get that right? Did we peak too early at times?

"Last year, we felt we peaked a little too early and petered out towards the end of the season. 

"A lot of work has gone into how we're managing the squad, how we're managing the mindset of the squad, leading up into finals rugby, as we call it.

"There was a lot of hurt in those older players.

"You heard Sexto' talk after the match. And the younger lads who have such a huge appetite to actually play. 

"There is a nice blend between the two groups, those younger lads who are desperate for winning and those older lads who feel that we have not achieved enough over the last number of years. 

"We're in a good spot."

Irish Independent

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