Connect with us

Sports

McBryde: Odds are stacked in favour of the Bulls

Published

on

The mind games are continuing ahead of Leinster’s BKT United Rugby Championship semi-final against the Bulls, with the province’s forwards and scrum coach Robin McBryde passing the favourtes’ tag onto their South African hosts.

Yesterday, Bulls director of rugby Jake While tried his best to heap the pressure on Leinster, declaring that his side had “no chance” in the eyes of the general public.

McBryde was quick to deflect that attention back on the South Africans, who previously caused a big shock to defeat Leinster in the semi-finals two years ago. More recently, Leinster were resounding 47-14 winners when the sides met at the RDS in March.

On that occasion, the Bulls gave Leinster real issues at the scrum in the opening half of the game, but McBryde didn’t appear too concerned about his side’s struggles at the set-piece.

“I felt we had to work very hard to make the referee see things our way,” McBryde said of the scrum penalties they conceded that night.

“I was talking to a good friend of mine and he said, irrespective of all the preparatory work you do and the detail you go into, when you step onto that field, sometimes it’s like stepping into a casino. You lose a lot of control.”

Sticking with that analogy, McBryde (above) showed a remarkable poker face as he declared his side underdogs at Loftus Versfeld, despite the bookmakers installing them as six-point favourites.

“I would put them down as favourites, yeah. When you consider the number of internationals in their squad, the proud home record they’ve got.

“They’ve obviously had a better preparation time than we’ve had with regards to playing a home game after playing Benetton last week. I think the odds are stacked in their favour,” he added.

Leinster have been handed a major fitness boost ahead of Saturday’s game in Pretoria, with Garry Ringrose fit to make his return from injury.

The centre has been troubled by a shoulder injury in recent months, playing just once since the end of January, while his comeback has been delayed week-on-week since early May.

While Ringrose didn’t play in last week’s quarter-final win over Ulster at the Aviva Stadium, the 29-year-old did train fully, and is fit to play this weekend, according to the province’s latest injury report.

Jack Conan is also set to be available after sitting out last week with a minor issue.

“We’re coming to the end of the season as well, we’ve put some unbelievable work in to get him [Ringrose] back to where he is currently, so he’s training back fully.

“Jack brings a lot of impact off the bench. He started against Connacht and right from the word go he was effective, carrying off the base of the scrum, being dynamic, and he’s developed his lineout game as well.

“It’s invaluable. You get to this stage of the season and you want as many fit players as you can to select from. Not only for the games on Saturday, but the quality of your training in the week, to prepare your team as well as possible.

“We’re under no illusion we’re stepping into a very hostile environment, a proud team with a proud record in knockout rugby. To have players of the calibre of those players coming back is invaluable. It gives us a little bit more strength in depth.”

Garry Ringrose is available for selection

A knockout game away from Dublin is unfamiliar territory for Leinster, whose last semi-final outside their home city was their Champions Cup last four defeat to La Rochelle in 2021.

A squad of 30 players departed for South Africa on Sunday, split between two groups, with some dealing with a ten-hour layover in Dubai along the way.

McBryde is hoping his side respond positively to being out of their comfort zone.

“We’ll find out on Saturday,” he added.

“It’s obviously a different route that we’ve taken this season. We failed to reach the final in previous occasions, so maybe it’s good that we’ve come in to a tough place, against an in-form team full of internationals.

“We need to be at our best, and sometimes you can react positively to having to do things the hard way. Hopefully we’ll get a good reaction out of the players on Saturday.”

Watch the URC semi-final, Bulls v Leinster, on Saturday from 2.30pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player,

Listen to live commentary of Bulls v Leinster, and Munster v Glasgow Warriors on Saturday Sport on RTÉ Radio 1, and follow a live blog on rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app.

Continue Reading