Leinster are wary of being caught out by Bath’s abysmal form when the two teams go head-to-head this weekend, according to coach Stuart Lancaster.
The West Country outfit, despite having a number of talented players in their squad, have endured a wretched Premiership season so far.
They have lost nine matches in a row, with their latest coming against Northampton Saints as Stuart Hooper’s men were thrashed 40-19 at Franklin’s Gardens.
It should therefore be a comfortable afternoon for the Irish province this weekend but Lancaster knows the pressure is off the English side.
Releasing the shackles
“Obviously it’s subconscious complacency, because the boys would never consciously be complacent,” he told reporters.
“Particularly when it’s a European week, you can feel the difference in the environment already. I quickly went through the Connacht review and quickly turned the page to Bath.
“I know more than enough people from Bath, both the playing squad and the coaching staff very well, and I know how much they’ll be hurting and working behind the scenes to improve things.
“Sometimes when the shackles are off, the pressure of the Premiership is gone, they could come and think they’re going to have a great day out in Dublin and go ‘let’s try and give it a lash.’”
Leinster are still one of the best teams in Europe and will again be among the favourites for the competition, but they have not lifted the title since 2018.
Leo Cullen’s men were comprehensively outplayed by La Rochelle’s gargantuan pack in last season’s semi-final and Lancaster admits that the Champions Cup will once again provide tough competition.
“The top end in Europe is a challenge,” Lancaster says.
“I think people have said in the past that it’s different to international rugby, but with all due respect to some of the international teams in November, you play against a La Rochelle or a Toulouse or a Saracens or a Leicester now, you’ve not just got teams who are stacked with homegrown international talent, they are supplemented by overseas international talent as well and it makes them very, very competitive.
“We’re very, very respectful of the opposition that is in this competition. There is not one team I would look at and go ‘this is a gimme’ or ‘this is a team we’re not going to pay much attention to’ – and we’ve learned that to our cost because the last time we won it was 2018.
“We lost against Saracens in 2019 and 2020, then obviously La Rochelle (last season), so you’ve got to get everything right. That includes the scrum, the lineout, the breakdown, your attacking game, your kicking game, your defensive organisation.
“So I’m confident we’ve made improvements, but I’ll never be sat here thinking we’re going to walk through this competition, because there are too many good teams, too many good coaches, and too many teams that are set up to challenge us in different ways, complemented by quality international players and quality overseas players as well, that make them formidable.”