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Leinster glory days can inspire more European success: Healy

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

The vanguard is shrinking, but there are enough members of the glorious Leinster era to remind the young 'uns of what is expected and what can be achieved.

Their 2012 victory over Ulster in Twickenham doesn't feel that long ago and yet five seasons have come and gone without another Champions Cup success.

Their last Guinness PRO14 title came in 2014.

By Leinster's greedy standards, it constitutes something of a famine. Between 2008 and 2014 they hoovered up silverware on an annual basis, collecting three leagues, three European titles and a Challenge Cup. Sporting dynasties do not last and Leinster's power has faded.

They have not been back to a final since they hammered Ulster in London, reaching the semi-finals twice only to run aground against Toulon and Clermont, with Toulon also ending their ambitions at the quarter-final stage in 2014.

The new breed watched the elder statesmen dominate Europe and look ready to fire them back to the top.

For those who remain from the glory days, there is a sense of making up for lost time.

On Easter Sunday, they have a chance to make a real statement of intent. Saracens have dominated this competition for the past two seasons and have not lost a quarter-final since 2011.

Cian Healy is one of those with medals gathering dust, eager to add something fresh to the collection after claiming the Grand Slam earlier this month.

Watching Toulon win three in a row, before Ulsterman Mark McCall's Sarries claimed consecutive Champions Cups, has not gone down well.

"It's tough seeing teams doing that, taking prizes when you want to be taking them," he admits. "You always do want to take the people at the top. It was kind of nice seeing that draw come through, seeing us end up with them.

"There were a few laughs about it, you finish top (of your pool) and you end up with Sarries. That's the way you want to go, if you want to get to the top of this, you have to beat the best."

The lean years have created a firm desire within the Leinster dressing room, according to the experienced prop.

"It's pretty brutal," he says. "It makes you want to get back to it again. It does create that burn, but you can't create that burn in two weeks. You have to create that burn throughout the squad.

"Everyone, not just you, has to be on that level. We have a squad now who, only a handful of lads have a couple of cups, and everyone else has gotten into a bit of a winning mentality and they're saying, 'The next step for us now is to go get a cup'.

"It's a good place to be in," says Healy.

Along with Rob Kearney, Isa Nacewa, Johnny Sexton, Seán Cronin, Devin Toner and, injury permitting, Seán O'Brien and Fergus McFadden, the loosehead prop is the experienced arm of a much-lauded Leinster squad packed with young, exciting talent. What they lack in silverware, they make up in enthusiasm and self-belief, according to Healy.

"This is knockout rugby. We have to start like we are at the bottom, slog away and get as structurally sound as we can," he adds.

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