D-day for Ulster Rugby: Mark Anscombe spells out what he expects from his men in Dublin
Coach Mark Anscombe has highlighted three key ingredients if Ulster are to topple Leinster in Saturday night's RaboDirect PRO12 play-off semi-final – detail, desire and discipline.
With so little to choose between the neighbouring provinces, the Kiwi reckons the side getting those things right will progress to the May 31 final against the winners of Friday night's Glasgow Warriors v Munster semi.
"They're both quality teams and come the weekend you'll see that from the teams on the two team-sheets," Anscombe said.
"Leinster have internationals right across the park and on their bench, so we have to make sure we close down their space and time and hustle them into making mistakes.
"We're all human and sometimes we don't have our best days on any given day. So we've just got to hope that our 23 are on their game on Saturday night – and some of theirs aren't.
"To do that we've got to back ourselves, believe in ourselves and really get in amongst them."
The sides met as recently as May 2 in a regular-season PRO12 clash at Ravenhill where the visitors beat their 14-man hosts 22-20.
Anscombe's reply when asked what he hopes to see in the re-match was: "For a start we'd like to think we'll be playing with 15 men this time; that would help.
"But what matters most is getting our details right. Sometimes recently we have not been doing that and that is what has hurt us most.
"When you don't get that right you aren't able to build the pressure on your opposition. But if we do get our detail right, then I think we can give them a seriously good rattle and do a job. Now that's easier said than done; good teams stop others, but it's a fine line between success and failure," he said.
"Good defences get in your face, close down your time with the ball and put pressure on you when you're trying to execute. That's what we'll be trying to do to them and they'll be trying to do that to us.
"So if we can get our detail right to give ourselves efficiency and accuracy, we know we've got the fire-power to give them trouble, as they do."
Acknowledging Leinster's winning mentality, Anscombe said: "Their trophy cabinet over the last four or five years shows that. They haven't got there by chance; they have depth – international players in every position and international players as cover in most of them, too.
"But if we front up on the day, in the right frame of mind, and get our details right, I have all the confidence in the world that we can do the job."
He is hoping, too, that as a result of having lost finals to Leinster in each of the past two seasons – Heineken Cup in 2012, PRO12 in 2013 – those experiences have taught Ulster some hard lessons.
"I hear and read that you learn from this and certainly Leinster – and Munster – have had setbacks on the pathway to success," Anscombe said. "So we'd like to think that maybe it's our time.
"But that won't just happen because we think this is our time; you've got to make it your time, you've got to make it happen. And I think that maybe comes from just having a little bit more desire – the thing that gets you back up off the ground when you're hurting.
"That's not about talent or being faster than someone else –that's just that inner desire to be competitive and win. We're going to need that on Saturday."
His third all-important 'D' was discipline.
"Last time we played Leinster we gave away six penalties in the first 17 minutes," he said. "Last year, when they beat us in the final, we gave away two-three penalties in the first couple of minutes; they put one in the corner and scored from the line-out and they kicked the other.
"After that we were always chasing. So we've got to make sure our discipline is good so we don't give them easy points."