After they won both Champions Cup and the Pro14 last year, there was an admission from within the Leinster camp that there had previously been a considerable disparity between their attitudes towards European competition and the domestic tournament.

Even last year, when they became the first Celtic team to complete the double, the Pro14 title win was something of a bonus, following on from reclaiming their European title.

This season it has taken on a new importance, however, following their first loss in a European final in six appearances, when they were beaten 20-10 by Saracens in Newcastle earlier this month, as Rhys Ruddock, the flanker who captained them to victory in last weekend’s semi-final against neighbours Munster, acknowledges.

“Obviously, there was massive disappointment on the back of the loss to Saracens,” he said.

“There is a big contrast to this time last year when we had won the Champions Cup and were trying to re-generate excitement.

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“It was certainly easier to get guys excited and motivated for the challenge of Munster last week, because we really felt we needed to prove a point to make sure we win some silverware this year.”

That they could transform their back-row the week after such a major occasion, by his recall and that of fellow international Josh van der Flier, was a powerful indicator of the depth and quality of the Leinster squad and Ruddock reckoned that is part of the reason they have been able to compete more seriously in two competitions.

“In the last few years we have certainly made a big point of trying to battle hard on both fronts,” he said. “You’ve seen that in the way the coaches have rotated the squad. We have used something like 55 players in this year’s pro14 campaign.

“Over the last few years there has been a big focus on building depth in the squad and bringing through young players so we could fight on both fronts. That is hugely important to us at the club.This year, having lost a final in Europe, nothing is more important than this weekend and trying to get some silverware out of what has been a very positive season so far.”

Their depth will be examined this weekend when they have to go into their Pro14 final against Glasgow Warriors without the towering presence of Devin Toner, who hobbled out of Saturday’s semi-final with a knee injury and while Ruddock acknowledged that his absence is a major disappointment, he expressed confidence in their ability to cope.

“It is a massive loss losing Dev,” he said.


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“He has such a presence within the team. His ability to call the lineouts and run forward pack is huge.

“We are lucky that the coaches have invested a lot of time in the likes of James Ryan and Ross Maloney, guys who are more than capable of running the lineouts. I think a lot of credit has to go to the coaches for having faith in them at a young age and giving them responsibilities

“Dev is a massive loss but we have James Ryan and Scott Fardy to call on so we are really confident in their abilities as well.”

As to what they have to do to prevent Glasgow running riot as they did last Friday when Ulster were torn apart at Scotstoun, Ruddock suggested that the reigning champions will simply look to go about business as usual.

“Our principal has to be not to change too much from what we do,” he said.

“We have to be able, as smart rugby players, to make decisions as to when it is a good idea to contest the breakdown and when it is not. We have looked at Glasgow’s attack, how they are capable of pulling guys from deep and receiving kick-offs in their own 22 and running it back at you and taking opportunities.

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“The most important thing is our decision-making around the breakdown. When it is on, when it is not, which side of the ruck to go with Hogg and Hastings. They like to sweep and pick out mismatches in the defence. It is definitely something we have been looking at because they have an unbelievable attack and are really exciting to watch and hard to play against.

“It is a big couple of days for us, trying to prepare our defence to be able to match the quality they have in their attack.”

There is, however, also a new respect for a Glasgow squad that is finally beginning to toughen up under Dave Rennie’s leadership.

“You can see that all the players really want to action that...the likes of Cummings, Gray and Harley are really physical and I don’t think they will be afraid of going toe-to-toe with anyone. That is definitely an area we have seen improvement in their game,” said a player who is no shrinking violet when it comes to such exchanges.

“It’s definitely a strength of theirs and an aspect of the game that we have to be mindful about.”