Wednesday 22 January 2020

Tracy: Munster tougher than European tie

James Tracy during a Leinster gym in UC. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
James Tracy during a Leinster gym in UC. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

It isn't turkey and ham that has James Tracy licking his lips for Christmas.

It is the hostility waiting for Leinster at Thomond Park on Saturday (KO 7.35).

"As a rugby fan, it's probably my favourite place to play. It's an iconic ground," said the Leinster hooker.

"Now, I've had bad days there, but they make the good days all the better.

"They are a hostile bunch, but you wouldn't have it any other way. It makes it all the better."

No matter the personnel, the intensity is guaranteed and this serves as the ideal barometer for Leinster's, a gauge on how close they are to unseating Ireland's elite, given most of the World Cup men will have their feet up for this one.

"It's one of the most intense games. It's tough, tougher than a lot of European games, intensity wise," he said.

"It probably is a great yardstick of how we're going."

Leinster are working from a base of confidence that has produced twelve straight victories between the PRO14 League and the Champions Cup.

They will need all of it to withstand the physicality coming hurtling towards them married to the tidal wave of passion crashing down from the stands.

"It's a cauldron down there. Until you've been in it, sometimes you don't know what's going on until it's over.

"The pressure, they're brilliant at riding the wave of momentum and everything down there.

"It's a lot different to most other fixtures, the feeling of playing down there anyway."

Tracy even dipped into his treasure trove of memories for a more personal touch.

"I remember going down as 24th man years ago and even getting heckled when I wasn't even playing," he laughed.

"I was in the warm-up and still getting abuse. That's what you deal with. I was like 'wow, this place is something else.'"

As always, the main strategy has to be to quiet the home crowd, give them nothing to feed on.

"It comes in waves. They get flowing in attack, win a box kick, they thrive off big moments and decisions going their way."

The Kildare man only has to recall last December in Limerick to relay the perfect example of how the atmosphere poisoned Leinster's process.

It all got too much for even some of their most seasoned internationals.

"We were in a good spot going into that game," said Tracy.

"We started the game, got the scrum and line-out. It was turned and, then it was one thing after the next - penalty here, yellow there and the pressure mounts.

"They're very good at playing pressure rugby on top of all the external factors. 

"They don't make it easy for you. If you can get it right it makes a winning all the sweeter, but it's not easy going down there."

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