Champions Cup

'Be Leinster... we don't have to change': Champions back their ability to dig deep and crack Saracens defence

After three encounters with the English champions this season, Glasgow boss Dave Rennie feels Leinster are well-equipped to trouble them.

THE FATE OF Glasgow Warriors in the Champions Cup will be a warning well-heeded by Leinster as this weekend’s final approaches.

The Scottish side ended the Pro14 campaign top of their conference with a superior points tally to all of their rivals entering the knock-out rounds, but in Europe they were continually thwarted by the English champions.

Wins over Cardiff Blues and Lyon ensured Dave Rennie’s excellent attacking side advanced to the quarter-final stage, but there they were pitted against Saracens for a third time this season. And the result followed the form guide as Mark McCall’s men blasted their way into the final four with a 56-27 success to add to the powerful 3-13 win in Glasgow and the five-try 38-19 victory that wrapped up their pool.

Dave Rennie Rennie ahead of the January loss away to Saracens, one of three defeats to the English champions this season. Ryan Byrne / INPHO Ryan Byrne / INPHO / INPHO

“Our plan was to play at a bit of tempo to move their big men around,” said Warriors coach Rennie with a residual hint of exasperation as he looked back before Sunday’s Pro14 awards in Dublin.

“We believe that our competition is a bit quicker, but you’ve got to be good enough to look after the ball. For a number of reasons we were poor on the day, we’ve been a lot  better since. But certainly Leinster have got the game that could stretch them, but they are two very good sides.”

“Two juggernauts of Europe,” the Kiwi added, before pointing out that Leinster won’t necessarily need to seek out the fast and loose approach that unraveled his own charges.

“Leinster have got strength across the park and they’re prepared to go an inch at a time and gain lots of phases, we’ve seen it so often when they’ve gone 30-odd phases to score. So they’ll ask lots of questions of Saracens.”

Of course, Saracens’ last loss in this competition came at the hands of this weekend’s opponents – in last year’s quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium – and the reigning champions are not about to shy away from the traits which earned them the crown.

“Definitely, it’s very hard to crack them, but we’ll try to get some ideas,” said backs coach Felipe Contepomi, adding, “especially, to play our rugby, be Leinster and play Leinster style of rugby.

“We don’t have to change, we just have to make sure we can impose our way of playing, be ourselves and try to be the best we can on the day.”

Garry Ringrose and Felipe Contepomi File photo: Felipe Contepomi chats with Garry Ringrose at Leinster training. Laszlo Geczo / INPHO Laszlo Geczo / INPHO / INPHO

The Leinster way has unquestionably evolved and expanded down the years. So while some may read Contepomi’s confidence in Leinster’s game as a call to play expansive rugby, the eastern province more often specialise in sapping opposition energy with prolonged, gruelling periods of attacking pressure. They lead the competition with 157 carries per game on average, and they will again be intent on owning possession.

“In every game it’s important to keep the ball because the more you have the ball, the more chances you have to score and not allow them to score,” said Contepomi.

“You can’t defend for 80 minutes against a team like Saracens, because it’s very tough.

“Obviously we want the ball as much as we can, but it will be crucial what we do without the ball as well.

“We’ll have to give our best performance of the year to beat Saracens, that’s the truth. “We’ll face that challenge and we’re looking forward to the challenge.” 

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