Dublin: 17°C Saturday 2 July 2022

Leinster refuse to bask in happiness as Ulster test out secret weapon

Ulster are working on a secret weapon to stump Joe Schmidt in his final game as Leinster coach.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt and captain Leo Cullen.
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt and captain Leo Cullen.
Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

LEINSTER COACH JOE SCHMIDT and captain Leo Cullen spoke in measured tones at the Friday captain’s run in the RDS. From the unfettered tones, an outsider would be none the wiser that the Blues have lost the last three Pro12 finals on the spin.

Schmidt’s players, in a nod to past failures, were focusing on today’s Grand Final with Ulster from the moment they emerged from the home dressing room after they won the Amlin Cup. Leo Cullen, Mike Ross, Rob Kearney and Shane Jennings stopped to chat about beating Stade Francais but were eager to talk Ulster and avenging a two-game losing skid against their inter-pro rivals.

Two minutes shy of midnight, last Friday, and the last of the Leinster players left the RDS grounds. No wild parties on the agenda but, one hopes, a couple of drinks to toast success. “Ah, it was a good night,” remarked Cian Healy on Wednesday, “I enjoyed it.”

The prop told TheScore.ie, “We’ve learned in the past, from winning Heineken Cups and basking in the happiness of that… it doesn’t pay off well for you coming into the next week. This time around we’ve been pretty clinical in our thinking, our training, and keeping that [Pro12] goal in mind.”

Bad hair day for Ian Madigan? (©INPHO/Billy Stickland)

Before the set off down the M1 towards their ‘home’ game at Dublin’s RDS, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe was pleased that prop John Afoa and club captain Johann Muller were fit to start in the second row.

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He said, “John and players like Ruan (Pienaar) and Johann have been part of World Cup-winning squads. When the big moments come, they are cool heads under pressure and you can’t put a price on that. When you put them together with our Ireland internationals and our excellent young players like Stuart Olding then you have a great mix.”

Ulster secret weapon? Nick Williams is really letting that Players’ Player of the Year award go to his head. (©INPHO/Presseye/Darren Kidd)

“However,” Anscombe added, “Leinster are a quality team and we have a huge amount of respect for them. They will ask a lot of questions of us and we will have to play at our very best to beat them.

This is a massive match, a local derby and it is an occasion that everyone at Ulster is looking forward to. In recent seasons Ulster have been the bridesmaids too often. We have done our learning – it’s now time to step up and to prove that we are good enough.”

*TheScore.ie will be liveblogging all the Ulster v Leinster action from 4:15pm.

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About the author:

Patrick McCarry

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