Thursday 21 February 2019

Blues season is all black and white for Zebre

FULL FOCUS: John Fogarty Photo: Sportsfile
FULL FOCUS: John Fogarty Photo: Sportsfile

From the outside looking in, Zebre and Benetton Treviso look like two speed bumps Leinster can afford to take at half-speed.

On the inside, they are opportunities to put more points on the PRO14 League table and for players to make their points on back-to-back Saturdays ahead of the Champions Cup semi-final.

"Zebre at the weekend is what we are focusing on," said scrum coach John Fogarty.

"Last week was great, the support we had on the day was brilliant.

"That's something that has developed over the season, and it was epic at the weekend.

"We're hoping to get some of those 50,000 supporters into the RDS for what is going to be a tough game, because in order for us to be ready for Scarlets again this game becomes really, really important."

There is the benefit of sealing a home semi-final to be secured and that can happen with decisive work in the next nine days.

"If we do a job in these two games, it puts us in a really strong position for a home semi-final and that's something that we want to have and want to achieve.

"But, we can't get ahead of ourselves. We can't get distracted.

"It's so important that we are on point now."

This concentration on the day-to-day focus is understandable, one harnessed by those, like Fogarty, who know how it can be to get so close without getting the ultimate reward.

There was the League semi-final loss to those dastardly Scarlets and the European Cup semi-final exit to Clermont last season.

The fear surrounds the fearlessness of youth and how all the accumulated victories could lead to a dash of complacency, just enough to topple them.

Of course, former Connacht coach Michael Bradley, now in charge of Zebre, will want to let Irish rugby know he is still at work in the professional game.

"Brads is doing a really good job with them and he'll have them fired up to come over here to get a scalp," acknowledged Leinster's Fogarty.

"For this week, we're going to have to pick 23 really fit players to take on Zebre because they've got some real big lumps."

Zebre have good recent experience here too, taking out Connacht impressively at the Sportsground which was no mean feat.

There is too much on the line for Leinster to take anything for granted.

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