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Team spirit the key

Guinness PRO12 Editor

28 May 2010

Leinster head coach Michael Cheika believes team spirit could be the key to Grand Final success this Saturday.

Cheika’s men face the in-form Ospreys at the RDS in the inaugural season decider and the Australian knows there is little to choose between the two teams when it comes to star names and individual quality.

But while there may not be too much separating the finalists when it comes to pure rugby, Cheika is hoping unity and desire could swing the game in Leinster’s favour.

“The biggest thing for me is the team spirit which has been as strong as it has ever been for me,” said Cheika, who has been with the Dubliners since 2005.

“We’re going to need every bit of it because when you test yourselves in the big games, as much as you like to think strategy, technique and all that stuff counts…how together you are and how much you want to win for each other will be extremely important.

“That’s something that we have worked hard to build as a playing group and hopefully that will hold us in good stead on Saturday night.”

Home advantage would be another perceived advantage for Leinster but, while Cheika is delighted that the season finale is taking place at the RDS, he is quick to dismiss any notions of it being a deciding factor in the outcome of Saturday’s showpiece.

“The fact that it’s here is good for us because we love playing at home and in front of our supporters,” added Cheika.

“But, at the end of the day, it’s about performance. We can have all the home comforts and all the added incentives, but it’s about performing on the night and making sure that we’re as close to our best as we can possibly be. At this stage of the season, if you can get close to your best then it’s going to be a good effort.

“We know that if we knock off for a couple of minutes against the Ospreys, we’ll pay.”

Cheika clearly has the utmost respect for the job that Andrew Hore, Scott Johnson, Sean Holley and Jonathan Humphreys have done at the Liberty Stadium.

The Stade Francais bound boss hasn’t shied away from praising the opposition in the lead up to this weekend’s encounter, making it clear to the media and to his players that Leinster will have to raise their game if they are to claim a third trophy in three seasons.

“The Ospreys are the most dangerous team in the competition.

“You’ve just got to look at the speed they’ve got which is one of the most dangerous facets in any team’s game, with guys of the calibre of (Tommy) Bowe and (Shane) Williams out wide.

“If you have the luxury of playing a quality player like James Hook in the centre because there’s another No10 who’s pushing him then you’ve got to have some good players. (Andrew) Bishop is a quality player in the middle and their back-row speaks for itself in how they play.

“I really think that they will target us in the tight five and I think that our tight five are very well focused on what will be the biggest battle for us of the season, because it’s all or nothing.

“As we’ve said before, whoever wants it more will win.”