Leinster will get parity at best at the breakdown against La Rochelle, and that is why they will need to change their tactics in order to win, according to former Leinster coach Matt Williams.
After losing to Munster in the URC semi-final, Leinster's last hopes of silverware this season rest solely on the biggest game of the season against La Rochelle in the Heineken Champions Cup final.
It is the first time in the history of Europe that the showpiece will be an exact rematch of the previous year's final. While Ronan O'Gara masterminded a sensational victory over Leo Cullen's side last year, Leinster have the advantage of playing in Dublin on Saturday.
However, Williams and Irish Times journalist Gerry Thornley have La Rochelle as slight favourites. One of the main reasons for this is the French side's sensational breakdown.
The breakdown battle
Speaking on Wednesday Night Rugby, Williams broke down how important the breakdown battle will be.
"I think Sean O'Brien, the breakdown coach at Leinster, is the most important guy on staff this week," Williams said. "Twenty phases against La Rochelle is a myth, it's like believing in the tooth fairy.
"Why their defensive record is so good this season is because teams can't attack agains them. They keep getting turned over at the breakdown.
"I think they are the best in the world, I think they are better than anyone in the south [at the breakdown]."
Leinster's quick ruck speed this season has been the talking point all year. However, Williams does not believe Cullen's charges can get any more than parity over the big men from the south of France.
"I don't think you could ever do a number on them," Williams said. "I think if you get parity, you're doing well. Ronan [O'Gara] sent me an extremely dirty text message last year when I said they got away with a bit at the breakdown.
"That's how close it is. Ronan has done an unbelievable job at the breakdown. If you can get parity, you've got a shot.
"That's why I'm talking about a kicking game. This is where you've got to think out of the box with this team. They are the complete team.
"The two best sides in Europe have made the final."
Leinster will lose if they play how they have all season
Leinster have eased past the competition all season, including their semi final against the most successful team in Europe Toulouse.
However, Williams believes that if they go out and play the same way that they have all season, then La Rochelle will defeat them.
"They are going to have to deny some points at goal, and go to the corner and take these guys on at the maul," Williams said. "They're going to have to give them everything but the kitchen sink.
"Leinster play this superior running game that gets them through the whole season with these incredible wins. If they just play the same tactics completely against La Rochelle, they'll lose.
"I think they're going to need a variation in what they usually do to absolutely flummox La Rochelle. If they do what they've always done, I think La Rochelle can counter them."
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