LEINSTER WILL NEED to be at their physical peak if they are to blot Exeter’s excellent home record, forwards coach Jono Gibbes said.
The European champions kept their Heineken Cup hopes alive with a five-try win against Scarlets in the RDS on Saturday.
But with little to choose between the teams still in the running for the two “best runner-up” qualification spots, Joe Schmidt’s men would dearly love to come away from Sandy Park this weekend with another bonus-point win.
To do so, they will need to trump a Chiefs side who have only been beaten at home by Northampton and Clermont Auvergne this season and who came within a late kick of a shock draw when the sides met in Dublin on matchday one.
“Who we’re playing against, where we’re playing, their record at home, their collectiveness, their coaching, their organisation — it’s a tough ask really,” Gibbes said at this afternoon’s training session in UCD.
They haven’t been broken down at home that often. I think Clermont did it once. They’ve got a really, really good record in the Premiership at home so permutations and all that sort of stuff are a little bit out the door because first of all we’ve just got to prepare to get a physical foothold in the game. That’s going to be our first challenge, and to deny them as much momentum as we can.
He added: “Because of who we’re playing, if you go and try to throw the ball around and get four tries and have an outcome, you’ll miss what’s happening at your ruck or you’ll miss what’s happening at your lineout. You’ll miss things right in front of you and they don’t need a second invite really to be honest.”
Rob Kearney marked his first European start following a long injury lay-off with Leinster’s fourth try last weekend, securing the bonus point three minutes into the second half, but despite plenty of pressure and possession the hosts couldn’t add to their try count until Ian Madigan crossed to score a minute from the end.
The killer instinct wasn’t quite there in the second half, Gibbes admitted as he looked back on the 33-14 win.
We were not as clinical as we would have liked to be honest. There were a few factors. I thought Scarlets were pretty influential at the breakdown, compounded by our lack of patience with the ball in hand.
I think we need to bring that intent that we had. We need to bring that focus that I thought we brought to the game. I thought that physical commitment was good by everyone but not quite as clinical as we need to be.