Hines fully aware of the scale of the task
“Leinster also missed a couple of opportunities. But that’s the way rugby is. It’s like two boxers going for it. They land a punch and we took it and then we landed one and they took it so we’re not really knocking each other out.”
O’Driscoll, Kearney, Fitzgerald, they don’t matter, says the 36-year-old. But of course they do. However, Clermont and particularly the experienced Hines are determined to see Aviva as the European champions’ citadel regardless of a rump of their blue chip players being on the injury list. The closeness of the result in last weekend’s game of boots (15-12), however, should leave him nervous enough. Leinster’s conundrum is they need tries, something traditionally right up their street.
“That’s irrelevant. Those things we can’t worry about, don’t worry about,” he says of the missing international players. “They have no influence on the game. They are not there and the only influence they have is that they are missing and someone else is playing. Clermont are concentrating on the players playing and what they can do. . . ”
What he understands for certain is the back-to-back matches are a unique eccentricity of the competition, one that brings a different dynamic to what are generally swing matches.
Basic mathematics and the shape of the other pools means Leinster’s position is fraught. But, as Hines agrees, the minds of both sets of players are clear about what aspects of their play they need to sharpen.
“It’s like you’re playing four quarters,” says Hines.
“Two quarters are a little bit later in the week. In fact it’s one big game but it’s separated by six days. The things you have in your head that you could have done or should have done or didn’t do, they are still pretty fresh in you mind.”
Jamie Heaslip and Leo Cullen couldn’t agree more and if a natural flux plays any part in this two-act play, Leinster will grasp the opportunity even more voraciously this week.
Not often does a side earn a second opportunity to straighten out a badly-kinked pool table. Hines spent enough time around the RDS to know that.