“He’s Very, Very Good At It And They Were Very, Very Good In The Air.”
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Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster is well aware of the threats Munster will pose ahead of their PRO14 semi-final meeting on Friday.
The two Irish provinces will meet for the second time in as many weeks on Friday night but this time it will be knockout rugby with both teams playing for a spot in the final.
Leinster got the better of Munster two weeks ago as rugby returned but the southern province showed some real progress since the lockdown and went out and beat Connacht in impressive fashion on Sunday.
Lancaster’s side meanwhile remained unbeaten in the league on Saturday with a win over Ulster but he and everyone else in the changing room know that counts for nothing come Friday.
“It’s absolutely irrelevant how many games we’ve won prior to this semi-final,” Lancaster said.
“I remember in the 2016/17 season we played some great rugby across the board, scored 90-odd tries in the season but we lost against Scarlets in the Pro14 semi-final and that defeat still sticks in everyone’s throats until this day.”
One player who looks rejuvenated for Munster since lockdown is Conor Murray who has been pulling the strings at nine. And Lancaster has been impressed with Munster’s aerial game, an area he agrees Leinster finished second best when they met two weeks ago.
“He’s very, very good at it and they were very, very good in the air,” said Lancaster.
“We’ve got to make sure that we don’t present those opportunities in the first place, try and get as much pressure as we can at the ruck without compromising ourselves, trying to get pressure on Conor Murray at the base, look the help the taxiing back… and ultimately it comes down to the technique and winning those aerial battles, and I thought Munster came off better in those areas than us.”
Munster looked to move the ball a lot more on Sunday having shown glimpses of that in the second-half against Leinster with Wallabies legend Stephen Larkham largely credited for this.
But Lancaster reckons Munster deserve more credit for how they look to play at times, even before Larkham arrived.
“I’ve always thought Munster have played a bit more rugby than people give them credit for if I’m being honest, even before he [Larkahm] arrived,” said Lancaster.
“Since his arrival, you can see more width in their game and that balance between what Munster are traditionally strong at – the set-piece, the attacking game near your tryline – but the two tries they scored [in the second-half] against us were good tries, both Andrew Conway and Keith Earls.
“I know we were down to 14 at the time but I was disappointed to concede those tries, but you have to give credit to Munster’s attack for what they achieved and the way they manipulated us.
“So there’s clearly been progression made in the lockdown period and this pre-season and it’s up to us defensively to make sure we’re as good against Munster as we were against Ulster this weekend.”