The outcome of the 2010 Magners League Grand Final will come down to hunger as much as anything else – that’s the view of Leinster boss Michael Cheika.
The Australian led Leinster to top spot in the regular league standings before masterminding a fourth straight win over bitter rivals Munster in the Play-Off semi-finals but Cheika believes almost everything goes out of the window when it comes to the tournament’s showpiece event.
On paper, the Grand Final will feature two evenly-matched teams, with both sides boasting world-class performers throughout their matchday squads.
While Leinster can turn to Brian O’Driscoll, the Ospreys can call on James Hook; while the Dubliners can rely on Jamie Heaslip, the visitors have Ryan Jones and Jerry Collins at their disposal. And while Rob Kearney and Jonathan Sexton could call the shots for Leinster, Shane Williams and Tommy Bowe could do exactly the same for the Ospreys.
And with so much talent in both set ups, Cheika understandably believes that the side who deal with the occasion and demonstrate an unequaled desire for success will come out on top at the RDS a week on Saturday.
“As far as the Ospreys are concerned, you probably won’t find a team in the league with more of an attacking threat,” said Cheika when analyzing Leinster’s opponents.
“They’ve got a powerful set-piece, a powerful backrow: they’ve got it all.
“So it’s going to be down to who has got the most nerve and who has got the most hunger.”
Both those qualities were certainly present in abundance in Dublin last weekend when Cheika watched his side secure a 16-6 triumph over the reigning Magners League Champions in a fiercely competitive encounter.
Cheika admitted that his men weren’t at their best offensively in the all-Irish semi – due in no small part to the familiarity of all the players – but the departing coach praised the manner in which they took it upon themselves to work out how to win when it really mattered.
“We weren’t rucking past the ball, we weren’t really getting good go-forward, so you can’t turn it on for 80 minutes,” was Cheika’s honest assessment.
“I think a lot of it would be driven by the fact that we know they’re so dangerous with the ball, with guys like Earls, Howlett, de Villiers and Mafi, and O’Leary in close, they can all make breaks.
“Our players know them very well, they’re worried about them making breaks, so they want to make sure they defend. They got well organised in defence early.
“It’s about turning it on when you realise you’re not doing that. The players managed it at half-time.
“They pin-pointed the exact issues they needed to improve on, they took responsibility for it and they did it in the second half.”
Grinding out one more win in similar circumstances might not provide a nine-try thriller but few Leinster fans would argue that it would be anything other than a hugely satisfying way to end a long, hard season in which, for so long, Leinster have been the league’s top dogs.