Jack Conan and Leinster staying humble ahead of Bath ‘knock-out clash’

Game time and match fitness crucial for group that has been deprived of outings

Last week's romp against Montpellier mightn't have been the ideal preparation for Saturday's Heineken Champions Cup match away to Bath (kick-off 1pm) but given Leinster hadn't had a game in over a month something was definitely better than another nothing weekend.

The 89-7 win eclipsed Leinster’s biggest win in the competition in December 2004, 92-17 against Bourgoin at the old Lansdowne Road, and with his coach’s hat on Leo Cullen was the first to recall what happened six days later away to the same opponents.

Cullen played in both matches and in the rematch Leinster trailed 23-19 when they were indebted to a sublime 77th minute finish by Brian O’Driscoll - his second try of the match.

True, Bourgoin were wounded and vengeful, but it’s a reminder as to the difference in playing away from home in Europe.


"Yeah, absolutely," agreed Jack Conan this week. "I wasn't aware of the return fixture against Bourgoin. Garry (Ringrose) was captain the other day and he spoke first in the changing room after the game. The first thing he said was to be humble and to not get ahead of ourselves. We have got a big challenge this week playing Bath.

“We have been over there once in recent years and we struggled,” added Conan of a scrappy 17-10 win four seasons ago. “It was a bad day and if it wasn’t for Jordan Larmour getting that intercept, we wouldn’t have come out on the right side of it. So, we are under no illusions how tough it is going to be when we go over there.”

Bath appointed Brent Janse van Rensburg as their new defence coach, if only until JP Ferreira joins form Munster in the summer, over Christmas and this coincided with them finally recording their first win of the season at home to Worcester in front of a near full-house two weeks ago.

“Obviously they broke their bit of a duck there a few weeks ago against Worcester with a new defence coach,” added Conan. “I am sure they have a lot of energy and are really excited to get back to The Rec and put on a performance for their fans. There are no easy games away from home, so we are treating this as a knock-out rugby match for ourselves.”

Like many, it’s been a stop-start season for Conan, who hadn’t played for nine weeks since a quad injury ruled him out the day before the Argentina game, albeit he didn’t miss many games.

“That’s it, I missed two months but I really only missed three games. I wasn’t available up to that first Montpellier game and everyone knows what happened since then. I have been fortunate enough, we all had our spell out when Covid was bad or whatever, and then came back.

“We had a lot of training, a lot of tough weeks under our belt, so even though I haven’t played a whole lot, I feel fresh and I feel good and feel a bit match-fitter after the weekend as well.”

All eyes are on Bath but the Irish squad announcement was a reminder that the opening Six Nations game against Wales is but a fortnight later when, hopefully, a full crowd will be permitted. That, said Conan, definitely matters.

“It’s one of the best things about playing rugby, to have the support of friends and family there. It’s one of the big reasons why you play, to give the people that are closest to you, the people that you love, the people that support you when times are bad and when times are good, to give them that big day out.

“They can come to the RDS and they can see you play, and you can win front of them. It means the world and it’s one of the reasons why everyone plays rugby really. Please God we’ll be able to get people back to the RDS and back to the Aviva in the coming weeks.

“Obviously other countries have made that decision already and it would be great to play away and have people in stadiums, and hopefully we can follow suit and have as many people there because that extra volume, that extra noise, the atmosphere, it just makes those days extra special.”