As we begin the build up to the 2011 Magners League Grand Final, we take a look back at last year’s inaugural event in Dublin.
The team announcements for the first-ever Grand Final took place just a stone’s throw away from the RDS in the Irish capital, with the captains and coaches from Leinster and the Ospreys answering questions, discussing tactics and talking of their determination to win Celtic Rugby’s greatest prize.
Here’s what then Leinster coach Michael Cheika and captain Shane Jennings, together with Ospreys coach Sean Holley and skipper Ryan Jones, had to say the day before the big match.
Leinster coach Michael Cheika
"This is what all the teams in the league have played for. We’ve very realistic about how difficult the match is going to be. We’re looking forward to it but we know we’re going to have to be at our absolute best from a team’s perspective to win it. That’s what the team’s worked for all year and that’s what our supporters have followed us for – we just want to make sure we represent our province well.
"It is my last game with Leinster and we’ve obviously known that from a long way out. But there hasn’t been much sentimentality, to be honest. It’s been about getting ready for what is the biggest game of the season for us. There’s an opportunity for us to put another building block in place and we’ve got to make sure we take it.
"(In reference to the talents of both backlines and in particular the full backs) I’ve got a feeling it’ll be a bit closer to the single digit numbers where the game’s going to be decided. Those guys will then influence the scoring. It’s the platform that’s got to be laid by every player with the physicality that’s involved in the game, from Rob Kearny at 15 all the way to Stan Wright at No1 and all the subs. It will be the player who wants to take responsibility to come and make the difference, and that may well be Kearney because he’s been doing it very well since the Six Nations. Since he’s come back, he’s been one of our best backline players.
"In most big games you’re looking to put the nine and 10 under a bit of pressure but it’s about whether you can do that. You’ve got to be dominating the collision to be in a situation where you can get to those guys. If they’re dominating that part of the game, then the nine and 10 have a free run. It’s alright to say ‘put pressure on the 10’ but we have to dominate up front if we want to get to him because that’s where the momentum swings from.
"The standard of the Magners League’s improved without a doubt. You can see it by the way the teams have performed in Europe; their selection in international teams and for the Lions. The quality of play every week is really tough. That’s not just with the teams who are near the top of the league but also by the sides that are lower down – they’ve lifted their standards. I know that for us, of the five league games we’ve lost this year, we’ve had two rotation days and the other three we’ve lost to the bottom three teams. That standard’s been lifted and that’s been good for the league.
"I’m a fan of the Play-Offs. It helps in a season like ours, where we’re missing players in certain parts of the year and it gives a fair result at the end."
Ospreys coach Sean Holley
"We’re lucky in that we have a clean bill of health. The extra week has obviously helped. This is the squad that have taken us through the past month or so in some good form and we come here in good shape.
"We hope it’s a team to win tomorrow, otherwise we’ve picked the wrong team!
"These players have been playing well and they deserve their chance again. We’re well prepared but anything can happen in a final."
There was nervous excitement at the pre-match press conference
Leinster captain Shane Jennings
"It’s a cup final so I can see it being very, very tight. Every time we play them it’s always a very tough game, whether it’s over in Wales or here in Dublin. Over the years, it’s always been very close and we’re expecting the same this weekend.
"But past games and past records don’t really count for much in a one-off game like this. There’s two good teams and, hopefully, we’ll produce a good final.
"The Play-Offs make things exciting. Teams like the Ospreys and Leinster aspire to big days out for the fans and the club. It’s another big occasion for both teams and we’ll be trying our best to secure that silverware.
"It’s a final so there is a bit of added pressure…both teams won’t want to make mistakes.
"The Ospreys a fantastic team and they’ve got threats all over the pitch. We’ve got to get ready for that. We feel we’ve prepared well for it and now we just want to get on with the game. It’s been a long week off so I think both teams are just raring to go.
"We’ve been trying to get the balance right between getting over bumps and knocks and then preparing well. Hopefully we’ve got that balance right. We had a light enough week last week with a few days off. We started training from Friday onwards and we’ve pretty much done as much as we can. We’re just keen to get on the pitch and get playing.
"There’s two good teams who can really play so, hopefully, it’ll be an entertaining game for everybody."
Ospreys captain Ryan Jones
"The RDS is a great place to play. The fans are superb, they’re very vocal and they appreciate good rugby. It’s a good stadium and it’s somewhere we’re looking forward to playing.
"It’s going to be tough away from home. There’s going to be 15,000-odd Irishmen there cheering their team on. We’ve got to overcome that firstly, kick on, knuckle down and get our own house in order.
"It is a bit of an advantage to them and it’s something we’ve got to overcome early doors if we can. It’s something that we can’t afford to dwell on. We’ve just got to cater for that and get on with it.
"You don’t play at this level with the caliber of guys that we’re fortunate to have if you can’t cope with that environment. We’re quite fortunate that we’ve got a lot of experience and the guys know how to deal with it. It’s part and parcel of professional rugby and that’s the same in any sport.
"The work’s done now. It’s going to take a great team performance – a real cup final performance. The key is not to make mistakes and to control what we can.
"It’s about creating chances and taking them – that’s going to be the difference between winning and losing a cup final like tomorrow.
"It was a bit of a funny week last week with no game so, like the Leinster lads, we had a few days off. It’s the end of a long season so there’s nothing new to learn. It’s just about tinkering with a few things and getting up for this weekend both mentally and physically. We’ve had a great week’s prep and we’re just looking forward to getting out there now in front of a big crowd."