Fogarty anticipating another white-knuckle ride for Leinster
Scrum coach stresses importance of first 20 minutes against Scarlets in Pro14 final
Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty at a press conference ahead of his side’s Pro14 final against Scarlets. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Leinster may or may not be running on empty emotionally, and as the song says, they are only human after all. Either way, the odds are that this Saturday’s tilt at completing a European Cup/Guinness Pro14 double at the Aviva Stadium against the Scarlets will be another white-knuckle ride.
It will be difficult for them to scale the heights of their European semi-final just over four weeks ago, not least against the same opponents, and Leinster have also had to dig so deep in their intervening European final against Racing and against Munster in last week’s Pro14 semi-final.
Scrum coach John Fogarty is braced for as much.
“I think it’s going to be white-knuckle, yeah. I think it is. I think the final was the final a couple of weeks ago, and in the Munster game it was impressive how the lads got together. It was an emotional week. We lacked detail in some of the prep, and I think you saw that at the weekend. Our maul didn’t affect the game too much. But the lads together as a group, they were very tight. To stick it out and come out on top at the weekend, gave us another little level of belief.”
“But, as Stuart [Lancaster] says, ‘every game starts at zero’. We have to bring a new energy to it. We’re expecting them to have adapted and evolved their game, bring more energy to it, and it’s going to be a ferocious battle. You saw the Munster game, how ferocious the first 20 minutes were – it’s going to be something similar. The team that comes out on top after those 20 minutes has a really good chance of getting through.”
Warming to his theme, Fogarty added: “You saw Scarlets at the weekend take Glasgow apart, and getting ahead when they did get ahead, they can shut you down. Defensively, they’ve been very good. Tadhg Beirne, [Aaron] Shingler – they can really frustrate a team that starts to chase a game. I think that happened to them when we played them in the Aviva, it’s happened to us against them in the past. Let’s see who gets through the first 20.”
With regard to Isa Nacewa, whose calf strain from the week before forced him off halfway through his RDS farewell against Munster, and Johnny Sexton (calf) and Dan Leavy (hamstring), Fogarty said Leinster remain “hopeful” that they will return this week, as should Rob Kearney.
Of Nacewa, Fogarty said: “He’s not worried about anything but this game. We’re hopeful that he can get on the field because he’s incredibly important for us in terms of his leadership and obviously the physical things he can do on the pitch as well. But I think he’s going to be doing all he can, like he did last week, to get on the field because he loves this place, to be fair to him, and he’s served it very, very well. So he wants to see it out.”
Nacewa’s availability is more pressing as the game is likely to come too soon for Robbie Henshaw, who’s still recovering from the knee injury sustained against Racing. “With Robbie [Henshaw] I’d be a little bit more doubtful whether he can actually get through it,” said Fogarty.
As well as the retiring Nacewa and Richardt Strauss, Jordi Murphy is also moving on to Ulster in the summer, a decision he made when he couldn’t force his way into Leinster’s European match-day 23. But ultimately he’s started 17 of his 20 appearances this season across the backrow, including all three Euro knock-out games at “8”. Such versatility and quality looks a bigger loss now.
“Jordi has always been a really good pro. At that time [when he signed for Ulster] he was competing in a group of backrowers and was on the other side of selection,” said Fogarty.
“He’s proven himself to be really, really important to the group.
“He has that detail. He’s said to me a few times, ‘I will not be beaten on detail’ and I think that’s why Joe Schmidt loves him. He will take what he gets early in the week and he’ll deliver those detail parts really, really well on the weekend.
“He has an influence then on the younger guys in terms of what we get on the field from Jordi, also what the players around him learn – I think that’s something that we’ll lose. It’s a pity.
“On top of all of that, Jordi is a good bloke. Jordi is from Leinster, this is his home and you’re always a bit uncomfortable when you lose someone like Jordi. Obviously, we wish him the best and I’m sure he’s excited to go up and get stuck in up there.”
All the more so with another winner’s medal.