Champions Cup: Tuesday is ‘decision-making day’ for Leinster’s Tadhg Furlong and James Lowe

Date published: May 24 2022 - Dylan Coetzee

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster says Tuesday’s training session will be critical in determining the fitness of stars Tadhg Furlong and James Lowe ahead of their Champions Cup final against La Rochelle this weekend.

Furlong has been suffering from an ankle issue, while Lowe has a shin bump to deal with. The pair have been in excellent form for Leinster and will be sorely missed if ruled out.

Decisions to be made

Lancaster underlined that training on Tuesday would be more of a “decision-making day” for the duo as the Irish side prepares for Europe’s showpiece final.

“Tomorrow will be a big training day for us and Wednesday is off, so tomorrow is more of a decision-making day really,” he said on Monday.

The former England coach knows the pressure will be on his side, and it is all about how well the team reacts to the big moments and for the coaches to keep it simple for the players.

“It’s pressure, isn’t it,” he said. “It exists in all sports at the highest end. You draw on your own experience in terms of how to coach well in the week. Get that bit right, the bits we can control as coaches, making sure that we don’t overcomplicate things in the week of a game.

“You also draw on the player’s experience as well. It’s a very experienced playing group now and as I said we’ve won and we’ve lost along the way. We’ve won in France and lost in France. So, my experience I think counts for a lot as well in preparation.

“But nothing prepares you really until you walk out in front of 60,000 people in 28 degrees heat and suddenly you have massive bodies whacking into you. So, it’s rolling with the punches again, making sure you adapt within the game.”

Lancaster believes the ability to adapt and deal with the unknown will be crucial to success in such a massive clash.

“Yeah, because find me a game where a team has played 10 out of 10. I mean, I’m struggling to think of one that I’ve been involved in,” he continued.

“There’s always going to be that mistake or things that go your way or against you. Sometimes it’s the bounce of the ball or a referee decision. Sometimes it’s a yellow card on an instantaneous moment. So, you’ve got to be able to adapt and deal with those things.

“I thought we played La Rochelle last time we didn’t do that well enough and, as a consequence, they won the game so that’s obviously a big focus for us going into this game.”

The influence of La Rochelle coach Ronan O’Gara is certainly not lost on Lancaster, but the 52-year-old says the impact has also come from former Ireland international Donnacha Ryan.

“I think it’s not just Ronan,” he said. “Donnacha Ryan I’d say would have a huge impact on the forward group and the breakdown and how that’s been coached. You can’t fight on two fronts like they do and be successful without good coaching.

“Obviously they’ve got great players as well. They’re tough and they’re hard to beat. There’s very few teams that have beaten La Rochelle convincingly at all this season in any competition in any game. It’s a bloody good quality to have in any team.”

Leinster will have to hit their straps and perform to an eight out of 10, according to Lancaster, if they are to topple La Rochelle on Saturday.

“You obviously are always hoping for the 10 out of 10, and it never plays out that way,” he said. “But to win a final we’ve got to hit a good 8 or 9 out of 10 for sure.

“We were pleased to beat Leicester the way we did. We thought there were a fair amount of areas we could improve and if you had been in the review for Toulouse, you’d say the same thing. Even the Munster review this morning, again, you’d think we had lost.”

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