DESPITE BEING A regular captain of Leinster this season, Kevin McLaughlin can never take for granted his starting spot in the team, never mind victory over Glasgow Warriors in this Saturday’s Pro12 semi-final.
Though they are underdogs, Sean Lineen’s side will not be short of confidence having dominated the Pro12 team of the year nominations while securing a spot in the playoffs.
That achievement is down in no small part to their record against Leinster. In September, while the country was still in a haze from the early morning World Cup win over Australia, the Warriors won in the RDS. Leinster’s return to Firhill brought only a scrappy 10-10 draw.
“If you look at their record, they’ve only lost five games in the league and we haven’t beaten them in the league. So, we’re looking at it as a big challenge.” said McLaughlin.
Though the two Heineken Cup meetings between the sides brought two Leinster wins, including a 40 minute blitz at home which secured a bonus point victory inside 40 minutes.
Somewhere close to that level of intensity is expected to greet Glasgow this Saturday night and McLaughlin was making his intentions clear that; as ever, Leinster are wholly focused on the upcoming game. Even with the Heineken Cup final just around the corner.
“This is the semi-final of a competition we have worked all season to put ourselves in the position of a home semi. We’re taking this very seriously and we want a home final.”
Glasgow disappointed in their final game of the league season against Connacht in Firhill, but the back row is only too aware that, in finer conditions, the Warriors are capable of cutting loose.
“We need to watch them on the counter attack.” warned the 27-year-old, “Stuart Hogg doesn’t kick the ball much, he runs it back a lot.
“They’re pretty dangerous on our ball, at the breakdown, they get a lot of turnovers. So, we’re going to have to be focused on making sure we retain the ball well and just play our own game.”
The mantra of Joe Schmidt and his Heineken Cup champions is ‘improvement’. Week in, week out he and his players point at their own flaws.
These past few weeks, the line-out has been central to their focus, but McLaughlin is confident that the creases can be ironed out before facing Ulster at Twickenham.
“There’s still things to work on, maybe our line-out hasn’t been quite as secure as we would have liked. We’re always trying to improve and we’ll try to improve again in the next two weeks.”