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'It is going to be a very tough week - the changing room was so quiet'

Leinster captain Luke McGrath reflects on his side’s Champions Cup semi-final defeat to La Rochelle yesterday.

Luke McGrath in action yesterday.
Luke McGrath in action yesterday.
Image: Dave Winter/INPHO

FOUR STRAIGHT PRO14 titles, a recent Champions Cup win; it’s not as if Leinster are in the doldrums.

Yet this morning it feels like they are, yesterday’s nine-point defeat in La Rochelle leaving a team filled with regret.

“It is going to be difficult,” said their captain, Luke McGrath. “It is such a quiet changing room in there at the minute.

“It is going to be a very tough week, especially the first few days but we have to move on as quickly as possible. We are going to have to look back on it but there were opportunities where we could have converted pressure into points.

“That’s the disappointing thing. We have to back each other up now, a big few days for the squad and then we have to move on very quickly.”

Discipline and basic errors undermined everything Leinster tried in the second-half, a point McGrath didn’t avoid.

brice-dulin-is-tackled-by-luke-mcgrath-and-ross-byrne Brice Dulin is tackled by McGrath and Byrne. Source: Dave Winter/INPHO

“I don’t know how many turnover penalties they got but they have such good poachers in their team,” he said. “They went very hard at their defensive ruck and our attacking ruck and we weren’t able to deal with the threats well enough. It’s unfortunate but credit to La Rochelle. They are extremely hard to get off the ball when they are on it.”

For his head coach, Leo Cullen, yesterday’s semi-final defeat brought back memories of his days as a Leinster fan and player.  

“Jeepers, from my own experience as a player we had so many painful memories leading into Leinster being successful for the first time in this tournament,” Cullen said.

“When you get to a semi-final, it is such fine margins – particularly away from home, a couple of calls over the course of the game don’t quite go our way and suddenly the game can get away from you.
“When you come away to France, teams are heavily resourced, the set-ups are impressive, they’re big operations with big physical men who can do damage.

“They’re always recruiting in these clubs, bringing in All Blacks, we know all these things.
“So, for us, we needed to get all the little bits right on the day.

“There were plenty of things we did get right, but we didn’t get enough of those, particularly at the start of the game, that’s when we had the chance to take the game away from La Rochelle. 

“It’s hard chasing the game against them because of the physical players you’re running into, the game becomes very difficult because they go very aggressive at the contact area.

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“Nailing some of those chances, particularly at the start, was so, so important.

“Unfortunately, we weren’t good enough to do that today and the guys inside are gutted because they know there’s more in them.

“We’ll keep battling away, working on our game and make sure we’re better. Bring some more guys through and give them an understanding of what’s involved.

“When you go through some of the pain, you get the experience of what it’s like.

“We need to be better and get better.”

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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