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Lancaster would relish facing Crusaders after in-depth discussions with Super Rugby champs

The Leinster senior coach took great interest in finding out how the best team in the southern hemisphere would target the Pro14 champions.

Image: Photosport/Martin Hunter/INPHO

STUART LANCASTER HOPES that the presence of investment firm CVC as stakeholders in rugby will drive the game forward and to a north v south clash of clubs.

Lancaster’s Leinster used sport’s hiatus this year to engage in a project with Super Rugby champions Crusaders. A move that involved sharing ideas and also unveiling how the teams would seek to exploit one another’s weaknesses – such as they are.

The senior coach would relish the prospect of meeting the Christchurch-based side.

“If you’re involved with CVC and these types of TV deals and everything else,” Lancaster said, being careful to steer away from a deep dive into the hurdles to a global season, “that surely has to be something the club game has to strive towards, where you have some form of World Club Challenge.

“It’s been mooted as every four years and maybe that’s just the way it is, but you’d love to play the teams like that and pit your wits against them.”

The former England head coach took great interest in the theoretical shadow boxing the two sides from opposite ends of the globe engaged in, but the competitors within both organisations would love to trade blows for real.

“To be able to prepare a gameplan to try to beat them and for them to prepare a gameplan to try to beat us was hugely insightful for both.

“Without going into the detail. They watched quite a few of our previous games as we did with them. They highlighted one or two things, things that we were aware of but things where they’d specifically go after us. So we found that really useful. On the flip side, we did the same to them. It was just a really good exercise.

“We didn’t just talk about Leinster and Crusaders. We talked about the evolution of attack, the evolution of defence, how are weeks run. It wasn’t just about the gameplan, it was a lot about how we would set about preparing a team during the week which for us as coaches, is very interesting. 

stuart-lancaster File photo: Lancaster at Leinster training. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Obviously, you’re learning a lot about how teams would try and attack and break you down, and hopefully they learned as much from us as well.

“It was mutually beneficial, I think. Obviously they’ve gone and won (Super Rugby Aotearoa), so hopefully it works for us as well.”

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Leinster, of course, went through the first portion of the season with a 100% record, so a team of their pedigree can only target winning a double of Pro14 and Champions Cup from this juncture. For Lancaster, who only returned to on-field coaching last week, a strong finish to the season must start against Munster on Saturday week.

“It’s critical,” said Lancaster when asked about the need to hit the ground running at the Aviva, “not important, it’s critical.

“It’s pretty unique, the circumstances. If you go through the timeline… we go Munster, massive inter-pro game and they need to beat us because they want a home semi-final, then Ulster who are flying at the moment and made some great recruitment as have Munster.

“Then we’ve got a PRO14 semi-final, we need to win that in order to get to a PRO14 final. If we manage to win those games, then you’ve got to follow a PRO14 final with a European Cup quarter-final against Saracens and a week after that you’ve to play a European Cup semi-final against Clermont or Racing.

“So, it’s a pretty unique scenario where you have to peak right at the start of the season and deliver and win.

“The closest comparison I can make is that it’s a bit like a World Cup in that you’ve got to win your pool games, then you’ve got to win a quarter and semi-final.

“The difference is this time you’ve to do it without any warm-up games. We see it as hugely important to hit the ground running.

“There will be elements of rustiness, I’m sure, but I think that the more we can create competition within training and make it game-related as possible at the end of last week, this week and next week running into the Munster game… this week becomes critical in that situation.”

While part of the unique circumstance of this season is how snugly it will back up against the 2020/21 campaign, Leinster will be happy to have two battle-hardened stalwarts in their ranks for the business end directly ahead.

Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden were due to finish up in blue this past summer, but like a pair of greying, expert bank robbers, they have signed up to one last job.

“They are fully involved, fully integrated. I think you know the two characters; they are not going to wave a white flag and say ‘My time is done.’”

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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