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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 17 September, 2019
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'If we want to be ambitious, we have to back it up' -- Tadhg Furlong

With 14 points on the board halfway through the pool stage, Leinster have the makings of a European champion.

Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from Sandy Park

A TEN-POINT win at the home of the English champions is as powerful a statement of intent as you could imagine from any team with ambitions of becoming European champions again.

As Tadhg Furlong bounds into the Sandy Park media room though, the spirit of this being only ‘half-time’ in a a tough set of back-to-backs remained.

“If we want to be ambitious this year, we’re going to have to back it up next week,” said Furlong, just gently touching on the farther-reaching significance a result like this might have.

On this evidence, not to mention the 10 points racked up in the two European ties that preceded this game, Leinster are well-equipped to break the Anglo-French dominance of the trophy.

“It probably is a benchmark for us, but that statement would be (valid) if we can get another result next week,” added the terrific tighthead with 16 big carries to his name last night.

Chiefs boss Rob Baxter post-match felt that a touch of big-game experience and trust in the ability to grind out a score by keeping  the ball tight – no matter how high the phase count went -  was the difference between the sides. Leinster started with 13 internationals on the field and were able to use the knowledge of seven Lions (over 2013 and 2017 tours) over the course of 80 minutes.

For Furlong and Leinster, however, it’s another 2013 result that is driving the focus.

“Lessons were learnt for us against Northampton when we won away from home and didn’t back it up the following week.”

The Wexford man goes on to offer the caveat that he wasn’t playing in that December back-to-back role-reversal, Marty Moore and Michael Bent were the back-up props. That reinforces the point, though, if you have enough individual experience in a group then it will bleed into the collective.

“I don’t have a lot of European experience myself,” says the man of the match with no feigned modesty.

“But there’s a few lads in the squad with three Heneken Cups or been around a long time like Johnny, Sean O’Brien Ferg, Nugget… all these kinds of guys who have been around, played a lot of campaigns.

“They’re the leaders in our squad, the way they played tonight dragged us with them.”

An unscheduled extra night in Exeter last night won’t help the recovery process for those old heads (and Furlong) to sooth the bodies before ramping up for another battle on Saturday afternoon.

Rhys Ruddock and Tadhg Furlong with Jonny Hill Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We’re under no illusions how tough it will be, tonight was as physical a game as you’re likely to play, but it’s on us to back it up now.”

As tough as an international though? It had it’s moments, but not quite.

“It probably wasn’t the fastest game in the world, when you play a club game there’s a few more scrums, it can be a bit more combative than Test rugby, but wouldn’t be a quick or (as hard) on the lungs.

“Test match  physicality? Bodies are sore down there, there’s no getting away from it yeah.”

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Sean Farrell

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