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Dublin: 11 °C Tuesday 23 December, 2014

McLaughlin: Leinster in balancing act for ‘make or break’ weekend

The flanker acknowledges that Leinster need four tries this weekend, but is intent on remaining focused on the little details.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

EVEN WITH THE three stars above their crest.

Even with the medals in the drawer and their name etched three-fold on the Heineken Cup, Leinster want this next 10 days to define them.

The eastern province need 10 points from their remaining two pool games to stand a realistic chance of progressing to the knock-out stage.

To do that, they must first score four tries and win against the Llanelli Scarlets at the RDS on Saturday.

Joe Schmidt’s mantra has always been one-game-at-a-time stuff. Get the details right and the vital statistics will follow.

Yet while Kevin McLaughlin insists that the side remain fully focused on the “processes” which have earned them so much success already,  he readily admits the distraction of their over-arching goal; scoring more tries in one game than they have managed in four European outings so far this season.

With that in mind, there is a clear danger of the home side trying to force things that need to come naturally. It’s a fine balance. But the 27-year-old feels that last Friday’s convincing win away to Edinburgh was a useful exercise in cobweb-blowing.

“There is an element of (pressure), and I think that’s another way last week helped – scored a few tries, the shackles were off a bit. We’re scoring tries in the Rabo which helps, and the experienced guys coming back into camp really helps.

©INPHO/Donall Farmer

“The likes of Drico have been in a lot of games where it’s high pressure and you have to win. Obviously the tries add another element to it because getting five points would be excellent, but we’re very much concentrating on the process.

“Every European week is high-pressured, because you can’t really afford to lose in the competition. Unfortunately we’ve put ourselves in the position where we’ve lost twice and there’s even more pressure heaped on so we’ve just got to take the positives and enjoy it.

“We’ve got a sell-out crowd in the RDS and it’s one of those games that can make or break a team.”

As Sean Cronin also alluded to, the pressure is being welcomed within the confines of the dressing room. And McLaughlin joined his team mate from the front row in citing the ‘buzz’ injected by the return of three backs with the potential to bust the biggest game wide open.

“I think guys that have been around the block a few times enjoy the pressure, we enjoy big games, that’s why you’re a professional. If games you played didn’t matter then it wouldn’t be near as enjoyable. There’s a little bit of a buzz around. Guys are putting in hours of video work, making sure to leave nothing to chance and it’s an exciting week to be around Leinster Rugby.”

In Joe we trust

Crucially, McLaughlin also pointed out that, while Schmidt is far from immune to feeling the heat, the whole team is ready and willing to row in behind the coach and his tactics.

“(Schmidt) is definitely a bit nervous, I think everyone is.  Joe responds really well to these situations.  He’s always very positive, he always works very hard and I think the players respond to that and buy into everything.

“We’ve got massive trust for the guy, he’s delivered so much for us in the past couple of seasons and he always comes up with the right game plan. So we’re going to back him to do that this week.”

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