Leinster Rugby Head Coach Matt O’Connor stated that his squad know the stakes ahead of their RaboPro12 final clash with Glasgow tomorrow at the RDS. The coach has also decided that Ian Madigan – who secured the semi-final victory with a try against Ulster – is best utilised from the bench with Jimmy Gopperth once again chosen at out-half.
“Everyone understands the stakes tomorro,” said O’Connor. “Thankfully the club have been to a lot of finals. They understand the mentality of it. They understand what is required on the big stage. We’ve tried to make sure we are looking at all the processes.
“If we can deliver on those things, the group are fairly confident they will be there or thereabouts at the end of the 80 minutes.A lot of people in the environment have worked incredibly hard to get to this point. With 80 minutes left in the season it would be disappointing if we didn’t get what we deserved tomorrow.”
Gopperth over Madigan
Having started from the bench against Ulster, Madigan changed the game once on the park. His line breaking ability was what swung the game in Leinster’s favour having trailed their rivals. Now, Having seen Gopperth chosen for the biggest games this season – against Toulon in the Heineken Cup quarter-final and Ulster in the Pro12 semi-final – Madigan has to be disappointed about losing out once again to the Kiwi after his semi-final display.
But O’Connor rejected the notion Gopperth has been his go to out-half this season and spoke about Madigan’s development at Leinster, his ability as an impact-sub and the steep learning curve for the Dubliner.
“He’s (Gopperth) been in that slot the last couple of weeks. There is a bit of continuity that goes with that. The versatility that Ian gives you late in the game is a huge strength for the group which we saw against Ulster. To have the flexibility of minimalising the cahnges, stick Ian on the field to give us whatever is required at that stage is a big boost for us.
“I wouldn’t say most of the big games,” continued O’Connor on chosing Gopperth over Madigan when it has mattered. “He’s played a lot more rugby than in previous years. He’s played a lot of rugby at 10. He’s developed nicely in that spot. The Argentina tour is another opportunity. It’s a steep learning curve when you are in an environment that expects so much and you need to deliver on that when the primary focus is on you as aplayer maker. In that regard he has coped with it very well. He’s going to get better and continue to develop the more he plays.”
O’Connor has named Sean O’Brien on the bench along with Darragh Fanning who impressed in the British & Irish Cup while there is no place for Jordi Murphy who made a great breakthrough at Leinster and Ireland this season. Leinster captain Leo Cullen also starts from the bench in his final game but with all the selections, O’Connor feels there is no room for sentiment.
“At the very very top end, where the margins are so small you can’t afford to have the sentiment. It’s not an issue. It’s about 23 blokes delivering on what they need to deliver on in that 80 minutes and beyond that we will get what we deserve and we will take what comes after that. The focus is on that 80 minutes and what everyone involved can do to deliver what needs to be delivered on.
“It’s going to be a very very tough 80 minutes. From that end we have had a to have a little bit of a look on from what we can get on the bench at the back end of the game and to have the class we have on the bench coming onto the field is a real positive for us.”