WITH MUNSTER HAVING only ever lost one home fixture in the Heineken Cup before Sunday, many considered it a shock that they were turned over by Ulster.
Not Shane Jennings.
“No I don’t so.” said the Leinster flanker when asked if he considered it an upset.
“I think it was pretty even going into the game and if you asked the Munster lads they probably would have said the same.”
The openside was speaking during yesterday’s open training session at the RDS where over 1,000 Leinster fans got a chance to come face to face with the players in the wake of their 34-3 rout of the Cardiff Blues.
Before travelling to face Clermont Auvergne, the second favourites to win the competition, the eastern province must navigate through two RaboDirect Pro12 encounters with two more European semi-finalists: first, Edinburgh, and Ulster a week later.
With Sean O’Brien filling the number seven shirt, Jennings has found his minutes on the pitch becoming a little more scarce in recent weeks. However, the 30-year-old is hoping to use these two games to play his way into the team for the big day in Bordeaux.
“Everyone’s in high spirits,” said Jennings, “and the lads are itching to play this week to try and get that semi-final spot. There’s obviously a lot of lads who wanted to be involved in the squad against Cardiff so it’s an opportunity to rotate the team to see who can get in.”
“When you get an opportunity to play you’ve got to take it and you’ve got to put your hand up. The games I’ve played, we’ve gone well and the games I haven’t played we’ve gone well. So there is good competition in the squad and that’s what we want,”
These Pro12 fixtures will be under a little more scrutiny than normal in the coming fortnight. By the time they take the field in the Stade Chaban Delmas on 29 April, Jennings and Leinster will know who their potential opponents will be in the Twickenham final. When asked if Ulster had what it takes to go all the way, the former Leicester Tiger needed little more convincing, he leaped at the answer.
“Of course they could. Ulster are a quality team and anyone who underestimates them are going to come up short.”
He may be only taking it one game at a time for his own club, but looking ahead to Ulster’s big day at the Aviva, Jennings had a warning to those expecting Edinburgh – second bottom in the Pro12 – to politely move aside to set up a potential all-Irish final in London.
“Edinburgh aren’t going to be that naive or stupid to underestimate them. (Ulster) have got a big game against them because all the teams left in the semi are tough opposition, so whoever wins it deserves it.”
“They’re building something big over there” he added, referring to Michael Bradley’s tenure in the Scottish capital; ”and it’s strange to see their position in the Pro12 table – they don’t warrant that position.
“They’re a quality team and we’ve never played an easy game against them and we’re certainly not expecting that at the weekend just because they’re on a high and we’re on a high.”