Heineken Cup final: Ulster will be very physical – Leinster’s Schmidt
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt expects Ulster to employ a "physical" tactic when his side look to win their third Heineken Cup
Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt is expecting a “physical” Ulster challenge when the two-time champions meet the northerners in the 17th Heineken Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
For the first time in the history of European rugby’s biggest club competition, it will be an all-Irish affair, and the holders go into the match with an unbeaten record this season, following seven victories and a draw.
Schmidt’s side are aiming to become the first team to go through an entire Heineken Cup campaign unbeaten, while Ulster – winners in 1999 in Dublin – will be hoping to join Munster and Leinster as two-time winners of the Cup.
The Leinster-men are strong favourites to become only the second side after Leicester Tigers to retain the trophy, and victory would also secure a third tournament success for them in four years – a feat teams such as Toulouse, Leicester and Munster have failed to achieve.
With 82,000 fans expected to pack into the home of English rugby, concern has been expressed about the ability of Leinster to deal with the overwhelming favourites’ tag.
“If you can’t live with the pressure of the favourites’ tag you don’t deserve to be where you are,” Schmidt told the BBC.
“We know Ulster are going to take a leaf out of the same book as Clermont [who they beat in the Heineken Cup semi-final] and Glasgow [who they beat in the Pro 12 semi-final] and be very physical.
“It will be a case of having to freshen things up as we go.”
Leinster have already proven in the past that they can produce the goods when challenged, as they did in last year’s final.
For Ulster, they are entering waters unchartered since the stellar days of 1999 and their famous victory at the home of Irish rugby.
The addition of players such as Ruan Pieenar, John Afoa, Johann Muller and Pedrie Wannenburg has added steel, strength and skill to this side.
It should be remembered, however, that Ulster came through a group that included dual former Heineken Cup champions Leicester, and cash-rich Clermont Auvergne, and they went to Thomond Park and defeated Munster on their route to Twickenham.
And Brian McLaughlin, in his final game in charge of his native province, insisted his side are ready to win their first Heineken Cup crown in 13 years.
“It should be a fantastic occasion and a great game,” McLaughlin told the BBC.
“The boys are ready. We have had a great couple of weeks leading into it. We feel there is an opportunity waiting for us and it is important we show what we are capable of.”