The Leinster prop Tadhg Furlong believes an extra week’s rest following their last-16 walkover last Friday can work to their advantage as they seek to storm “fortress” Exeter on Saturday.
Leinster were awarded victory without taking to the field after a Covid-19 case was confirmed in the Toulon camp, meaning that while Exeter completed a comeback win over Lyon to book their place in the quarter-finals, Furlong and company were able to put their feet up.
“I suppose from a body point of view it won’t have done us any harm,” he said. “From a team perspective would an extra hit out have done us well? We don’t know. Some lads were very disappointed not to play but my view is that it will probably be good for us.”
Exeter are seeking to become the fifth team to successfully defend the European title, having lifted the trophy in their first final in October, but remain relative newcomers to the latter stages of the competition compared to Saturday’s opponents.
“I think [it makes you more hungry once] you have tasted success,” added Furlong. “Sometimes it goes either way for teams. They lay back on their laurels and expect it to happen and forget all the hurt that they have had over the years. Or it goes the other way where it gets so pent up and they want it so much and they go back and attack it again. I certainly think Exeter are in the latter camp.”
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Leinster and Exeter last met in the 2017-18 pool stages with the Irish province coming out on top both times but Furlong is expecting a tougher challenge against Rob Baxter’s current side. “Since then they’ve come on and last year doubled up with the Premiership as well so are obviously a quality team,” he said.
“Sandy Park is a fortress for them – we definitely have a big task on our hands. They’re not different to us – when they get to that 5-10 metres out from the line where they go into those pick-and-drives. To be fair they’re probably the originals at it, and do it so effectively. Their maul into their pick-and-go game, you really get a sense of inevitability about it when they get in there. They are obviously physical, but there’s a method to it as well. They are very disciplined in how they go about it and methodical about it.”