Leinster have learned lessons from Saracens setback says Rhys Ruddock

Several of Glasgow’s players have pointed to that 56-27 shellacking at the hands of Saracens as the game that got them into this Pro14 final, such has been the desire to make amends after that stinker. Sadly for them, their rivals on Saturday are thinking along similar lines after finishing a somewhat closer second to the same opposition in the Champions Cup final only 11 days ago.

Rhys Ruddock says Leinster are out to prove a point. Picture: PA.
Rhys Ruddock says Leinster are out to prove a point. Picture: PA.

“Obviously, there was massive disappointment on the back of the loss to Saracens,” says the Irish flanker Rhys Ruddock. “

“There is a big contrast to this time last year when we had won the Champions Cup and were trying to regenerate excitement. It was easier this year because we really felt we needed to prove a point to make sure we win some silverware this year.”

Throughout the interview Ruddock keeps revisiting one word in particular… energy. He obviously admired the bottomless pit of the stuff that Saracens kept returning to in that Newcastle final and he is hoping that Leinster can uncover their own source in time for Saturday’s visit to Celtic Park, especially in defence.

This Pro14 final has been hailed as a contest between Leinster’s defence and Glasgow’s attack and, even if Leinster scored more tries in the regular season than anyone else in the league, there is a hint of truth in that.

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Certainly Ruddock recognises that Leinster have to stop Glasgow from playing the way they want to and, listening to the flanker talk, the Irish province have lifted a couple of takeaways from that Saracens’ setback.

“We probably took some lessons from the way Saracens defended,” says Ruddock. “They brought a huge amount of energy and line speed that was hard to play against. Whether or not you are able to change things in a week or two but, going forward, certainly it’s hard to play against a team like that and it’s definitely an area we have focused on and will continue to focus on... that line speed.

“And then whenever you lose games like that it very often comes down to small things, fine margins, and there were opportunities early in the second half where we could have done things differently and come away with a score and put pressure on the scoreboard but we didn’t.

“So I think taking opportunities... the thing about last week we felt we did that against a really tough Munster side. Even at the end, we had the game won, but took the opportunity in the corner for Lowey to score and that try was pleasing.”

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The truth is that Leinster were broken by the sheer physicality of Saracens’ aggressive defence in the second half of that final and by Munster’s equally aggressive attack in the first half of last weekend’s semi-final.

Ruddock talks up some of Glasgow’s abrasive forwards, Callum Gibbins, Jonny Gray and Rob Harley, insisting that the Warriors can go toe-to-toe with the big beasts of European rugby, but Glasgow wilted under Saracens’ onslaught and they don’t appear to have the tools in the box to wrestle Leinster into submission.

Obviously Dave Rennie’s side will need to be physical in the contact zone but they will also need to bring their inventive best with the ball in hand if they are to trouble the four-time European Champions who start as favourites despite the match taking place at Celtic Park.

“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,” says Ruddock.

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“I think the most important thing is our decision-making around the breakdown. When it is on (to compete), 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.

“A full house in your own city is massive and Glasgow will no doubt have massive support. Going to play Glasgow, away from home, in a final, that excites everyone and I am sure it’s a very nice place to play, a good stadium as well, everyone is getting excited about 
the final.”