Leinster's Fogarty wary of Exeter backlash

Fri, 15 Dec 2017 07:36

CHAMPIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Leinster may be building towards a tilt at a first European Champions Cup title since 2012 but scrum coach John Fogarty is wary of an Exeter reaction in Dublin on Saturday.

The Irish province produced a compact and powerful performance in Devon last weekend to not only come away with a victory, but also deny their hosts a losing bonus point.

Having had their fingers burnt in the past after an impressive away performance was followed by a home defeat, Leinster are not taking anything for granted against the English champions.

"The type of team, the culture that Exeter have, the type of players that they are, they're not going to be in any way phased about coming to the Aviva," Fogarty told journalists this week.

"We need to make sure that we've learned from the game and we're preparing for what's going to be a titanic battle again.

"Emotionally, physically, we have to be in the right place to get through the game."

Four years ago, Leinster went to England and thumped Northampton 40-7 but a week later were turned over 9-18 at home.

Leinster still topped the pool but qualified for the quarterfinals only as sixth seeds - had they beaten Saints they would have been first or second seeds - and were knocked out by then champions Toulon in the last eight.

"What haunts us a small bit is the Northampton games back-to-back a number of years ago when we did a job on them over there and then came undone," added Fogerty.

Victory would virtually secure Leinster top spot in Pool Four whereas a defeat would not only let Exeter back into the race, but potentially also Montpellier, who resurrected their hopes with a victory away to Glasgow last week.

Leinster lead both their nearest rivals by six points.

Elsewhere, back-to-back champions Saracens faced some searching questions as they tried to make sense of last week's stunning 14-46 loss at home to Clermont.

It was a repeat of last season's final, but with a different outcome, as Sarries missed a staggering 37 tackles in a match ended in their record European defeat.

"It hurts, of course it does, but the way we respond to this is the most important thing now," admitted England hooker Jamie George.

"We need a response because of the way that we played. We are all very disappointed with how we played. We need to have a collective look at our game and learn from that."

Four teams have won all three group matches so far: Leinster and three French clubs. One of those is Clermont, which plays host to Saracens in Pool Two on Sunday. A second, Toulon is travelling to Bath the day before.

The third French team to have won their three games is La Rochelle, the only side to have also picked up a maximum three attacking bonus points to boot.

La Rochelle's debut in the competition continues a remarkable story. In hammering Wasps 49-29 in Pool One last week, La Rochelle became the first team to win their first ever three games in this competition since the mid-1990s and the European Champions Cup's early years.

The club were only promoted to the Top 14 in 2014 - the first time in the professional era that they had reached that level - and fought a relegation battle the following campaign.

But they finished top of the regular season standings in France last season and are top again now, while they also have the best record in Europe.

Travelling to Coventry to face a fired-up Wasps looking for revenge will be no easy feat, though.

Meanwhile, Racing 92 will play at their historic Yves-du-Manoir stadium in the west Parisian suburbs for the last time on Saturday, when Castres are the Pool Four visitors, after that Racing is moving to their new U Arena ground.

Agence France-Presse

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Sat, 24 March 2018
Ospreys v Leinster 19h35 Liberty Stadium
Sun, 25 March 2018
Leicester Tigers v Wasps 15h00 Welford Road
Fri, 30 March 2018
Chiefs v Highlanders 06h35 Hamilton
Rebels v Hurricanes 08h45 Melbourne
Scarlets v La Rochelle 17h30 Parc y Scarlets
Sat, 31 March 2018
Blues v Sharks 06h35 Eden Park
Brumbies v Waratahs 08h45 Canberra
Bulls v Stormers 15h15 Loftus Versfeld
Munster v Toulon 15h15 Limerick
Pool 1
Team P W D L Pts
La Rochelle 6 4 0 2 20
Wasps 6 3 0 3 17
Ulster 6 4 0 2 17
Harlequins 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 2
Team P W D L Pts
Clermont Auvergne 6 5 0 1 22
Saracens 6 3 1 2 18
Ospreys 6 2 1 3 15
Northampton Saints 6 1 0 5 6
Pool 3
Team P W D L Pts
Leinster 6 6 0 0 27
Exeter Chiefs 6 3 0 3 15
Montpellier 6 2 0 4 13
Glasgow Warriors 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 4
Team P W D L Pts
Munster 6 4 1 1 21
Racing Metro 6 4 0 2 19
Castres 6 2 1 3 12
Leicester Tigers 6 1 0 5 7
Pool 5
Team P W D L Pts
Scarlets 6 4 0 2 21
Toulon 6 4 0 2 19
Bath 6 4 0 2 18
Treviso 6 0 0 5 4