Hurt fuels Leinster's hunger for a fifth star

rugby22 May 2024 14:30
By:Brenden Nel
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Ross Byrne © Getty Images

Leinster’s ambitions to add a fifth star to their illustrious Investec Champions’ Cup history is being fuelled by the hurt of the last two seasons where they narrowly lost out.

Much like they still have to taste success in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship since its formation, the loss in two Champions’ Cup finals is a scar that continues to hurt them to this day.

And that is why they want to use the hurt to drive them to success this weekend.

With the addition of World Cup-winning defence coach Jacques Nienaber, the Dublin side face a tough Toulouse side this weekend.

Leinster do believe they have learnt the lessons of the past and believe that hurt will fuel their campaign in Saturday’s final as they look to break the duck of the last few seasons.

Ross Byrne was the first to front up this week, and admitted that there was a hunger to ensure that they don’t miss out on glory once again.

“We have obviously learned some pretty harsh lessons over the last few seasons,” Byrne believes.

“A big thing in the last two finals is how close they have been. Even the semifinal against Northampton, it came down to the last play, and a lot of the games we have had this season and in recent seasons have come down to that. So, it is the importance of taking your chances and doing the simple things well.”

And asked if that hurt was still something that haunted the squad, he offered a blunt “Yes.”

“I don’t think it’s any secret how much it hurt everybody over the last two seasons and how much it means to us. So yes, it wasn’t easy.”


Byrne knows the key is to embrace the occasion, and make sure that the pressure doesn’t get to them.

“Yeah, that’s probably a big thing. They’re unique, they don’t come around that often. I know this is our third final in a row but these weeks are few and far between, you don’t know how many you’re going to get in your career.

“So, it’s being able to enjoy it, particularly with the squad we have at the moment. It isn’t going to be the same next season and there’s coaches moving on as well, so it’s important that we do enjoy it and hopefully we can deliver a performance that we’re happy with on Saturday.”

Toulouse offer a different sort of attack to defend against, and Byrne and his teammates have been put through their paces by Nienaber in the build-up, knowing they have to fight fire with fire.

A massive pack, the likes of Antoine Dupont and Romaine Ntamack and others make them a very difficult side to defend against.

“The big thing is that we have to defend well against them. Everyone knows how good they are when they get in their flow and if they get on top of you, they are very hard to stop, particularly with the individuals that they have. The last few years as well we have taken our chances against them and we have implemented our game on them, which is important.”

Byrne believes Nienaber can be the key, especially with the Springboks narrowly ending France’s World Cup dream.

Nienaber has the experience and the know-how to transform them from narrowly losing to winning.

“We can draw on Jacques’s experience,” he smiled.

“He has gone to the highest level twice, so it is great to be able to draw on that experience. In terms of what he has brought, everyone can see how our defence has changed this year.”

And that may well be the difference for the Dublin side to finally achieve a goal that has been so close, but so far, for so long.