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'Munster, with the prep they’ll have had, they’ll have got the edge'

Leinster know their inter-provincial rivals will be keen to cut them down after European glory.

Murray Kinsella reports from Bilbao

THE NATURE OF the beast means that although Leinster will have enjoyed their Saturday night with Champions Cup winners’ medals around their necks, the hard work resumes today.

Munster will arrive at the RDS this weekend for the Guinness Pro14 semi-final with a vicious desire to keep their season alive and cut Leinster down after their European glory.

Peter O’Mahony Munster will be looking to give Leinster a reality check. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Racing 92 took a huge share of Leinster’s focus in recent weeks, naturally enough, but the eastern province will have been planning and preparing for Munster in the background too, mainly in the form of the deep analysis that goes in from the backroom staff.

Returning to their UCD training base today, the players will need to immediately refocus and run any remaining hangover after Bilbao out of their systems.

Johnny Sexton tweaked his groin in the win over Racing and will need to be further assessed, while Leo Cullen said captain Isa Nacewa and centre Robbie Henshaw also took “heavy bangs” in the victory.

It was an attritional contest at San Mamés, with many brutal collisions, but Leinster will need to put their strongest foot forward this weekend if they are to avoid an upset in the Pro14 bringing them crashing back down to earth.

Munster, with the prep they’ll have had, they’ll have got the edge,” said Cullen. “They’re up and running this week, thinking about Leinster and watching the game [against Racing], probably having a plan in place.

“They’ll be thinking, ‘If that was our plan against Leinster, what would it look like, etc, etc.’. It gives them a huge advantage from the off.

“It’s important our guys celebrate as well because it’s the fourth time this has happened to the club, it’s a pretty momentous day.

“We’ll reassess and I’ll have a look at that B&I Cup final [which Leinster lost to Ealing on Saturday], there’s a couple of guys there who might potentially come into the mix as well.

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Jonathan Sexton celebrates after the game Johnny Sexton will be as important as ever in refocusing Leinster's minds. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’ll try and get a team that is fresh and hungry to go out and do the business. It’s back at the RDS and the last time we played there we got beaten by Treviso, that’s still fresh in the memory.

“Obviously, we lost the semi-final at home last year against Scarlets. They are things we’ll discuss this week. In many ways, it’s a mental challenge more than a physical one, because the guys got a good physical workout today. It’s just mentally can we get ourselves to a place where we need to go and take on Munster?”

The expectation will be that European champions Leinster, so impressive for the majority of this season and with confidence boosted, will have too much for Johann van Graan’s visitors at the RDS on Saturday.

Cullen is wary of that factor coming into the inter-provincial derby.

“I almost feel like naturally there’ll be hype on Leinster now and Munster are waiting in the background,” said Cullen.

I know what it’s like being in that other team that’s waiting in the background. That was the Leinster team when Munster were riding high and we were going into games where no one gave us a chance.

“Do you think players listen to what you guys [the media] are writing and think they’ve got no chance? They think the complete opposite.

“In many ways, it just fuels the motivation a little bit more.

“Our guys will need to understand that as the week goes on.”

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Murray Kinsella

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