Leinster's Fogarty wary of Exeter backlash in European Champions Cup

Barnaby CHESTERMAN
Montpellier's Joe Tomane (R) runs with the ball past Leinster's Noel Reid during their European Rugby Champions Cup pool match, at the RDS Arena in Dublin, on October 14, 2017

Leinster may be building towards a tilt at a first European Champions Cup title since 2012 but scrum coach John Fogarty is wary of an Exeter reaction in Dublin on Saturday.

The Irish province produced a compact and powerful performance in Devon last weekend to not only come away with a victory, but also deny their hosts a losing bonus point.

Having had their fingers burnt in the past after an impressive away performance was followed by a home defeat, Leinster are not taking anything for granted against the English champions.

"The type of team, the culture that Exeter have, the type of players that they are, they're not going to be in any way phased about coming to the Aviva," Fogarty told journalists this week.

"We need to make sure that we've learned from the game and we're preparing for what's going to be a titanic battle again.

"Emotionally, physically, we have to be in the right place to get through the game."

Four years ago, Leinster went to England and thumped Northampton 40-7 but a week later were turned over 18-9 at home.

Leinster still topped the pool but qualified for the quarter-finals only as sixth seeds -- had they beaten Saints they would have been first or second seeds -- and were knocked out by then champions Toulon in the last eight.

"What haunts us a small bit is the Northampton games back-to-back a number of years ago when we did a job on them over there and then came undone," added Fogerty.

Victory would virtually secure Leinster top spot in Pool 3 whereas a defeat would not only let Exeter back into the race, but potentially also Montpellier, who resurrected their hopes with a victory away to Glasgow last week.

Leinster lead both their nearest rivals by six points.

- 'It hurts' -

Elsewhere, back-to-back champions Saracens faced some searching questions as they tried to make sense of last week's stunning 46-14 loss at home to Clermont.

It was a repeat of last season's final, but with a different outcome, as Sarries missed a staggering 37 tackles in a match ended in their record European defeat.

"It hurts, of course it does, but the way we respond to this is the most important thing now," admitted England hooker Jamie George.

"We need a response because of the way that we played. We are all very disappointed with how we played. We need to have a collective look at our game and learn from that."

Four teams have won all three group matches so far: Leinster and three French clubs. One of those is Clermont, which plays host to Saracens in Pool 2 on Sunday. A second, Toulon is travelling to Bath the day before.

The third French team to have won their three games is La Rochelle, the only side to have also picked up a maximum three attacking bonus points to boot.

La Rochelle's debut in the competition continues a remarkable story. In hammering Wasps 49-29 in Pool 1 last week, La Rochelle became the first team to win their first ever three games in this competition since the mid-1990s and the European Champions Cup's early years.

The club were only promoted to the Top 14 in 2014 -- the first time in the professional era that they had reached that level -- and fought a relegation battle the following campaign.

But they finished top of the regular season standings in France last season and are top again now, while they also have the best record in Europe.

Travelling to Coventry to face a fired-up Wasps looking for revenge will be no easy feat, though.

Meanwhile, Racing 92 will play at their historic Yves-du-Manoir stadium in the west Parisian suburbs for the last time on Saturday, when Castres are the Pool 4 visitors, after that Racing is moving to their new U Arena ground.