'There are a lot of guys bruised, a lot of guys cross, a lot of guys angry'

Leinster have no time to dwell on their Champions Cup heartache as they bid to bounce back against Munster.

THIS IS ALL unchartered territory for Leinster. Never before have they experienced the heartache of finishing second best in a European final, nor has this squad — now disconsolate and downbeat — endured too many collective lows like this.

The mood inside the province’s UCD headquarters on Monday morning was exactly how you’d imagine it would be. You don’t just move on from a disappointment like that overnight, particularly when the drive for five had occupied so many minds, for so long, inside these four walls.

Jack Conan dejected after the game There was bitter disappointment for Leinster at the weekend. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

The gloom has not yet lifted, and it may take the players and support base a while longer to get over such an aching defeat, but the reality is that Leo Cullen’s squad have little time to feel sorry for themselves. 

After such a physically and mentally draining weekend, the players were given extra time off on Monday before reporting for a review session after lunch, at which point the post-mortem into Saturday’s defeat to Saracens was well underway. With the rounds still raw, re-watching it all will have added further to the hurt.

“That’s the starting point, is actually reviewing the game, making sure we get through the emotion of that as well because it’s tough,” scrum coach John Fogarty says. “There are a lot of guys bruised, a lot of guys cross, a lot of guys angry — all that emotion goes with it as well.”

The page has to be turned pretty quickly. Munster are in Dublin this weekend and intent on inflicting more pain on their rivals, while banishing their own semi-final demons. Leinster have to be on it again, or else their season will be over.

“Sport is cruel because you have to move on so, so fast now,” Fogarty continues. “There’s only one way to get over things and it’s to move on as well. We have Munster coming down the road. It’s such an exciting game to go into now.”

Somehow, Leinster have to pick themselves up. Not only are they dealing with the psychological toll of defeat, but a squad battered and bruised by Saracens’ relentless pummelling. They will only have two pitch sessions this week — Tuesday and Thursday — and then their light captain’s run at the RDS on Friday.

While they will have to leave what happened in Newcastle in the rearview mirror, Leinster need to learn from the experience. Watch the key moments, take the lessons on board and channel that disappointment and anger into a performance this weekend. As painful as that process may be. 

“There was a bit of steam blown off, yeah,” Fogarty explains. “If you don’t, you’re going to carry that stuff with you. If you win a trophy and bring that emotion with you as well it can work against you. Trying to clear our heads now, deal with the loss in the right way, and learn from it. That’s something we’ve done well in the past, we lost those two semi-finals — Clermont away and then Scarlets at the RDS — and we as a group learned from it.

“The players will look at it really clearly and in no way is there a huge dip in their minds, it’s more about looking really closely at the moments in the game that let us down. That’s how they look at it. They move on quite quickly from losses and wins. We as a team have learnt to grow from losses and this will be no different. All that will count for nothing unless we turn up and perform on Saturday. 

John Fogarty Fogarty speaking to media at UCD yesterday. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“We have to move forward quickly because no one is going to care on Saturday what happened last week. The boys will want to perform really well for the support we’ve gotten and that’s what everyone wants to do now.”

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No better game than the visit of Munster to a sold-out RDS to refocus minds, but Leinster know Johann van Graan’s side will arrive in the capital desperate to maintain their bid for a first trophy since 2011. The hosts will need to match their desperation and their intensity on Saturday afternoon.

Fogarty added: “They’re desperate to win and we’ve heard them talk about how much they want to win. I don’t think anything in the past matters right now. It’s going to be an epic battle in the RDS. Form goes out the window and it’s all about how we mentally pitch up, how we prepare a team, and how we perform on the day. The performance part is what we’ll look closely at — why didn’t we perform in the moments we needed to perform in last weekend?

“We were put under pressure by Saracens. They deserved their trophy, they deserved their win but they put us under an awful lot of pressure.

“This weekend, we’re going to be under severe pressure at times so it’s about how we can actually deal with that. Today is going to be a difficult day as we need to learn from it.”

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Ryan Bailey

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