After losing their European title at Newcastle’s St James’ Park on Saturday the reigning Pro14 champions must confront a new challenge this week as they bid to end their season at another iconic football stadium.

Never before have Leinster, the four-time Champions Cup winners and victors on their only involvement in the Challenge Cup, had to head into their domestic end-of-season play-offs on the back of defeat in a European final and they now face a different test of their character to the one they underwent at the hands of the most imposing team in the sport as they were ultimately beaten 20-10 by English champions Saracens.

They have suffered post-European hangovers before, admittedly.

In 2010/11, having swept Ulster aside in their Celtic League semi-final, they claimed their second Champions Cup in the best-ever final by recovering from 16 points down to beat Northampton, but had used up too much physical and emotional energy to then cope with the prospect of a Celtic League Grand Final against Munster in their Thomond Park stronghold.

It was a similar pattern the following year when they beat Glasgow in the Pro12 semi-final, went on to thrash Ulster in a one-sided Champions Cup final, but just ran out of steam in the Pro12 final on their own patch at Dublin’s RDS Arena.

On those occasions the knowledge that they could call themselves champions of Europe offered more than sufficient consolation, while those experiences also offered context to the magnitude of last year’s achievement when, after a monumental battle with Racing 92 in the Champions Cup final, they managed to overcome the Scarlets to become the first-ever Pro14 champions and the first Celtic side to win a double.

That they cannot now repeat that, but face the prospect of meeting their great rivals Munster next weekend for the right to be the the republic’s representatives in the first ever rugby union match at the venue that was originally built by an Irishman in the 19th century, will test their mettle in a different way to the challenge posed by Saracens.

In the end on Saturday, a largely homegrown team found that even the force they bring that proves irresistible to most opponents, could not create sufficient cracks in the immovable object that confronted them, to bring it down.

“You stand out in the tunnel there and you see the size of obviously Billy Vunipola, Maro Itoje, Will Skelton in particular and we don’t have access to that many types of players,” Leinster’s head coach Leo Cullen admitted observed afterwards.

“They wore us down for sure. We’ve seen it a lot with Saracens, they get their nose in front and then it’s pressure, pressure, pressure as they squeeze the life out of teams. I thought our guys fronted up unbelievably well, but it does take its toll for sure.”

With their inspirational captain Johnny Sexton going through his full repertoire in trying to generate the pace of play that might let them overrun the big men, a 10 point lead established while Saracens were a man down, offered some encouragement to their legions of supporters who had made the trip.

However, as Cullen acknowledged, their failure to drive that advantage home, instead allowing the English side to draw level while they still had only 14 men afield, was decisive.

“We created a lot of opportunities, but we were up against a very, very good team,” he said.

“When you see the size of some of those Saracens players, they’re a big, big physical team with lots of quality and as we’ve seen on countless occasions in the last few seasons, when a team’s trying to chase the game against them, it becomes very difficult because they’re so aggressive in the middle of the field and they’re very comfortable defending and putting the squeeze on teams.

“I thought they did that really well and strangled us in the last 30 minutes once they had a lead. There are some big calls at various different stages of the game which we missed out on. That’s ultimately how we’ve lost the game. We’re gutted.

“We’d love to be sitting here with a more positive outcome, but full credit to the players…. the way they’ve applied themselves and the way everyone’s worked behind the scenes to make sure we’re in good shape at this stage of the season.”

For next week’s opponents, as well as Glasgow Warriors and Ulster as they prepare to contest the other semi-final, there was a warning in the way that, unprompted, he indicated that their attention has immediately moved to their other title defence.

“We just need to dust ourselves off now,” said Cullen.

“We’ve talked about so many different parts of the game, but we just need to try to move on as quickly as possible really because we have a huge game now against Munster next Saturday.”

Winners of their Conference by a vast margin, in spite of rarely fielding anything approaching their strongest side in the domestic competition, Leinster remain the Pro14’s champions in every sense and, far from demoralised by the loss of their European title, there is every possibility that their determination to make that clear will only have been redoubled.