The stakes have never been higher for Leinster and Munster as they prepare to battle it out at the RDS on Saturday in the Guinness PRO14 semi-final.
Munster, of course, are still attempting to end their trophy drought which last saw them win silverware in 2011 when they lifted the Celtic League.
Leinster, on the other hand, are licking their wounds after falling to the Saracens behemoth on Saturday in Newcastle which ended their hopes of achieving a historic back-to-back double.
One of these teams will finish the 2018/19 campaign without silverware and Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty knows the importance of picking his players back up for the week ahead with so much on the line at the weekend.
“We start with taking apart the game, seeing what decisions we made, what we can do better, how we can improve,” Fogarty said on Monday
“That’s the starting point, is actually reviewing the game, making sure we get through the emotion of that as well because it’s tough. There’s a lot of guys bruised, a lot of guys cross, angry – all that emotion goes with it as well.
“We start by dealing with what’s in front of us which is that game. The sport is cruel because you have to move on so, so fast now. There’s only one way to get over things and it’s to move on as well. We got Munster coming down the road. It’s such an exciting game to go into now.”
This time last season, when Leinster clinched the Champions Cup against Racing 92 in Bilbao, they made six changes to their side for their PRO14 semi-final with Munster a week later.
However, after reporting a clean bill of health from the weekend and with so much on the line against Munster, Leinster are expected to produce their strongest possible side.
“Yeah, it’s tough [mentally for players]. We’ve got one game left, we lose that game, that’s it, we’re done. I think we need to be as strong as we possibly can be. Those calls will be made today.”
Cork-born and raised in Tipperary, Fogarty is well placed to understand the hurt the southern province have experienced in recent years and he expects a “desperate” Munster side to rock up to the RDS on Saturday.
“We’ll put as strong a team as we can out and we will need to because you listen to Munster, there are guys that are desperate to win. We’re desperate to win too but Billy Holland has been talking about that he’s not going to leave this place [Munster] until he gets something, until he gets a win. There’s that desperation to win down there, and we’ll match that desperation as well. It’s going to be a big, big battle for both teams. We’ll need to be as strong as we can be.”
The Leinster squad are only arriving into their training base at UCD on Monday afternoon where they will be put through a video review session, Fogarty admits it’s going to be tough viewing but that it’s necessary ahead of a clash with Munster where they will also be put under pressure.
“We were put under pressure by Saracens. They deserved their trophy, they deserved their win but they put you under an awful lot of pressure. There are little moments where we’re in their 22 and we do something a little bit uncharacteristic by being a little bit loose with a pass, there is a crooked throw and there are things under our control we can deal better with and that’s what we need to focus in on.
“This weekend, we’re going to be under severe pressure at times so it’s about how we can actually deal with that. Today is going to be a difficult day as we need to learn from it.”