Joe Schmidt says history won’t be the deciding factor when he takes his Leinster players into a ‘pressure cooker atmosphere’ at Thomond Park this weekend.
The derby fixture between Munster and Leinster is always passionate enough but there is even more at stake this weekend as first meets second in the Magners League.
Having won the last four encounters against their bitter rivals, Leinster look to close down Munster's 12 point lead at the top of the table as the race for the Play-Offs prepares to go down to the wire.
The visitors came out on top at Thomond Park last year, winning 16-15, but, while Schmidt is hoping for a repeat result on Saturday, he admits history will have no bearing on proceedings.
“I don’t know if you have to set it up much, to be honest! Munster vs Leinster could be being played for nothing but there’d still be a hell of a lot to play for,” said Schimdt.
“If you base anything on history, the present gets overlooked. I think for us, it’ll be nothing other than the 80 minutes.
“The games that have gone before that, none of those are going to get us any points on the board. We’ve got to there and try and get something ourselves.”
The sense of occasion in Limerick will no doubt be something extra special, with a packed Thomond Park renowned as one of the most exciting and intimidating venues in world rugby.
"It's certainly a pressure cooker atmosphere," Schmidt told the Irish Examiner and the Irish Times.
"But it's something our players are pretty keen to respond to and I know they won there last year, albeit by a point, and it was kind of one of those tries that didn't come out of the set-piece guide books.
"It was a lucky bounce for us, a bad bounce for them and we got over the line.
“Unfortunately, in fixtures like this it is only one or two points – four points the last time, one try with 10 to go. There's not much between these two teams and it does come down to a bit of luck and just a little bit of timing and effort on the day.
"Paul O'Connell coming back for them is a massive boost. He really lifts the whole level of expectation and confidence within that group. Across the park, defensively they're very difficult to break down."
As for the situation at the top of the table, Schmidt insists the battle for the semi-final spots couldn’t be much tighter.
While Munster lead the way with 15 wins from 18 games, Leinster lie level with Ulster and reigning champions the Ospreys, with fifth-placed Cardiff Blues and the sixth-placed Scarlets still very much in the hunt.
And although last weekend’s results went Leinster’s way, Schmidt is fully aware that things can change in the blink of an eye.
“I see the situation as very, very tight. It’s great that we managed to get the win against the Dragons, especially after the Ospreys slipped up. Munster doing a great job in Cardiff kind of helped us out as well.
“It gives us a little bit of a buffer but we’ve got to go away to Munster so teams could well catch up on the back of that. It all becomes very, very tight in these last four games.”