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Leinster prepared to be big bad wolf to scupper Connacht fairytale

“By all accounts, everyone outside Leinster is supporting Connacht,” so someone has to be the bad guy.

Image: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

THIS SATURDAY LEINSTER, as experienced as they may be in late-season finales, will be find themselves on a new approach road.

They’ve entered deciders as favourites, as underdogs, against teams from overseas and their fellow provinces. But when they’ve met a team who shared their borders, they were sides who had a Heineken Cup to their name and viewed themselves as equals.

Connacht have belief, but you only need look as far as John Muldoon plucking 50/1 odds from thin air to see their fondness of the underdog tagA win for the west would be a fairytale, let there be no doubt, so it’s goal of the old money in the east to give it a grim ending.

“I suppose someone has to do it, don’t they?” Jack McGrath said with a mischievous smile when we asked if he was ready to pull the trigger and take down Bambi’s mother. He’ll save his fondness for fairytales for another day.

These things happen. They’re going really well from where they’ve come from. It’s a great story, but we want to get silverware back. We haven’t had a bit of silverware in a while. They’ll be raring to go as well, so it’ll be an interesting battle.”

With his attention turned to the make-up of the crowd in Murrayfield, the loosehead adds:

“By all accounts, everyone outside Leinster is supporting Connacht. So they’ll all come out in their droves to support Connacht. Hopefully we’ll have a good patch of Leinster supporters there as well.”

Backs coach Girvan Dempsey was also asked whether he might feel a tinge of guilt as he sets out to tear up the story of the season. His simple, flat, two-letter opening to his response spoke volumes.

“No.

“Connacht have been super, but we’re in this business. We’re very hungry to try and win the trophy. We know what we have to do and we know we’re more than capable of doing it. We just have to make sure we get our plays right, our defence right. Because Connacht have caused teams a lot of problems.”

And that’s how Leinster are maintaining the ruthless streak despite the romance in this fixture. Pat Lam’s team are by no means not a homonym of their coach. They can be pretty vicious when moving in packs themselves. A lesson Leinster have been forced to learn as often as anyone at the Sportsground through the years.

Ian Madigan hitches a ride with Jamie Heaslip Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“Defensively they’re very organised,” says Dempsey with a calm analytical voice, “and (they) didn’t concede much ground to Glasgow. Their attack game, as everyone has spoken about through the year, has been super.”

The praise in this case is far from feigned. These are two teams who, although starting from vastly different bases, have spent the season eyeing one another up at the top of the table. And it all comes down to this.

“They’ve been really impressive,” says McGrath.

“Where they’ve come in three years has been a testament to their players and coaches. It’s great to see them playing fantastic rugby. They’re up there in the try-scoring stats and in defence they’re up there with ourselves.

“It’s going to be a tight game: it’s one and two playing each other, that’s what everyone wants to see.”

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Sean Farrell

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