Ahead of the Leinster vs Munster clash this weekend, Bernard Jackman assessed both sides and how he expects the Pro 14 semi-final to play out.
Former Leinster hooker Bernard Jackman joined the lads on Thursday's OTB AM to discuss his old side’s chances against Munster in their upcoming PRO14 semi-final at the RDS on Saturday.
Following on from the announced departures of Felix Jones and Jerry Flannery at the season's end, Jackman believes that the way Munster react could play a big part in deciding the outcome.
"I think it’s going to be fascinating to see how Munster perform, given the departure of Felix and Jerry," said Jackman.
"Will they go deep into the well and pull out one of those patent performances full of emotion and passion that they’re famous for but we’ve seen less and less of?
"Over the last two or three years they’ve become more processed and structured but I also think Munster, when their backs are against the wall, when they’ve got a real chip on their shoulder, that’s been when they’ve been very good."
Problematically, Jackman believes that the departing staff were well-respected by the province's playing staff.
"I think there’s a lot of loyalty and respect for what Jerry and Felix have given Munster," Jackman posited, "and that’s why I think, potentially, they will get that balance right and I suppose pull a rabbit out of the hat, really."
Leinster are also following on from hardship, in the form of their defeat to Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup final in St. James’ Park at the weekend, which Jackman said showed their resilience.
"I think against Saracens they were just outplayed, they just didn’t have the power to stand up to Saracens," he noted.
"In actual fact, it was only down to their unbelievable resilience that at half-time it was 10-10. That game for me, it felt like it was a 25-point lead at half-time the way Saracens had dominated."
The December home victory for Munster, which saw them beat Leinster 26-17, also acted as a blueprint for how the underdogs could succeed again.
"They matched Leinster and maybe outdid Leinster in terms of aggression and physicality and Leinster’s discipline went but also tactically they were very smart, they attacked the breakdown at the right time, they had a couple of strike plays that caught Leinster on the hop, they were brave.
"What Leinster did against Saracens was they tried to outrun Saracens and keep ball in hand and Saracens defence was too strong and likewise, I don’t think Munster's attack is good enough to outplay Leinsters defense”, said Jackman.
"I think they need to be very smart on how they vary their play and try and find space in behind and they did it very well in Thomond Park, it’s five months since then but Leinster are under massive pressure. They’re going to be sore, hurting, I think physically that game against Saracens took a lot out of them.
Munster have had two weeks to prep, so if Munster can bring it, Leinster are going to have to bring it."
The Tullow native also looked into Munster’s attacking game and what they need to do to address Leinster’s quality defence.
"I think they could do with some reinforcements, when Carberry and Earls don’t play they’ve looked a little bit shy of x-factor to be honest and your attacking structure is important but if you don’t have players who can see opportunities or beat a man or have electric pace, well then it’s very difficult… to pull out a really good attacking performance.
"Munster need to look back at that game in Thomond Park where they kept their distance with them but yet played right on the edge of the laws. They frustrated Leinster, they exposed something that we hadn’t seen in Leinster for a long time where they lost their cool a little bit.
"They got set piece dominance, they kicked to the corner and mauled Leinster over which was a huge psychological blow for them."
The PRO14 semi-final between Leinster vs Munster kicks off at 2.30pm at the RDS on Saturday.
Written by Hugh Farrell