Lancaster: Champions Cup final is do or die

Lancaster: Champions Cup final is do or die

Leinster Rugby senior coach Stuart Lancaster has admitted that Saturday’s Heineken Champions Cup final against Stade Rochelais is “do or die” for the Irish province after Munster Rugby ended their double hopes last weekend.

A late drop-goal condemned Leinster to a 16-15 loss in the semi-finals of the United Rugby Championship at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin, but they now have a chance to make amends there against the side who dashed their Heineken Champions Cup dreams last year.

“The goal for the season is to win the double and it’s bloody hard to do,” Lancaster told the Irish Independent ahead of his final game with Leinster before joining Racing 92.

“La Rochelle lost the quarter-final of the TOP 14 to Toulouse, the best teams in France lost the semi-finals last year, so it’s unbelievably hard to do. It narrows the focus, for sure. It was always do or die, but it’s definitely do or die now.”

Lancaster knows exactly what Leinster will be facing on Saturday after they lost 24-21 to La Rochelle in Marseille a year ago.

“They’re obviously competitive on both sides of the ball in that defensively, they’re very strong,” he said

“They’ll get aggressive line-speed, be competitive at the breakdown and in attack, they have the capacity, because of the size of the forwards, to play a tight game but also a game with width, because they have power and pace in the backline.

“If you were going to pick your dream backline to recruit, you’d have power, pace and footballers, and La Rochelle have all three.

“They’re a very complete team and really well organised on both sides of the ball. Teams generally tend to be strong on one or the other, but they’re strong on both.”

Leinster are boosted by the return of Ireland wing James Lowe, who has shaken off a calf injury that has sidelined him since the quarter-final win over Leicester Tigers in April, and flanker Scott Penny, who has recovered from a head injury.

However, flanker Will Connors is ruled out after suffering a head injury during Saturday’s URC semi-final defeat by Munster.

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