Leinster embrace history as they look ahead to Saracens

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Leinster are refusing to shy away from history as they chase a fifth star against Saracens in Newcastle this weekend.

See off the challenge of the English giants and the Irish province will become the first club to secure a quintet of European Cup successes with three of their titles coming in the Heineken Cup era and the others under the guise of the Champions Cup moniker.

Currently stationed alongside Toulouse at the top of the roll of honour, Leo Cullen’s men have already accounted for the Top 14 side in last month’s semi-final at the Aviva, and the chance to go where no side has gone before is a massive motivator.

“It’s huge,” said Robbie Henshaw. “It’s something we sat down and had a chat about during the start of the season.

Everyone is so keen to achieve that bit of history, it’s a huge drive for us a collective. If we were to do that, it would be incredible.

Toulouse were actually the last side that failed to back up a title-winning season in Europe, falling to Leinster at the semi-final stage in 2011 having earned that fourth crown eleven months previously with a narrow defeat of Biarritz in the decider.

Leinster’s subsequent back-to-back was followed by a Toulon hat-trick and a Saracens ‘double’ success in 2016 and 2017, so this latest decider offers both of the competing sides the opportunity to push their case as the modern giants of the European game.

Pegged as a contest that is too close to call, both approach the weekend on the back of dominant showings in the last four with Saracens far too good for Munster in Coventry and Leinster once again accounting for Toulouse at the Aviva.

That latter performance was probably the province’s best this season given the opposition, the stakes and the paucity of their form in the surrounding weeks when player rotation had played a major role in handicapping their strengths.

And Henshaw believes they are capable of more again.

“Yeah, Toulouse was a good performance. It was always going to be a tricky game. We needed to have a good game plan going against them and definitely there is another gear in us.

“We can improve again on that. We’ll just look to keep doing the best we can week in, week out.

“Hopefully this week we pull our best performance out of the bag.”

He added: “Physicality stands out when you mention Saracens. Looking at their game against Munster it was pretty much a dog-eat-dog competition and we need to be ready for what’s to come in the air.

“They went after Munster in the air. They are one of the best teams in Europe when you look at their record and their results in this year’s competition.

It’s definitely going to be the biggest challenge this year.

Stuart Lancaster blooded a many of these Saracens players at Test level during his time over England – seven, to be exact – but Henshaw made the point that it won’t just be Leinster’s senior coach who knows a thing or two about this weekend’s opposition.

The sides met at the quarter-final stage last year when Leinster won in Dublin and many of them have faced off at international level.

There may even be up to ten players who have shared dressing-rooms with the British and Irish Lions.

It’s a mouth-watering prospect for players, supporters and neutrals alike and Henshaw is keen to soak up the experience 12 months on from winning the tournament on the back of a nerve-shredding decider against Racing 92 in Bilbao.

“You have to cherish it. The opportunity we have, and we had last year, is incredible.

“That balance of young and old players, to have the experienced guys around who have been in the last four finals and can take ownership during the week, is great.

“You have to tap back in to where we have been as a team this year and last year and in the finals (Leinster won) beforehand.

“That’s a big thing to look back at and to get you primed for what’s to come. It’s great to be here.”

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