Croke Park a ‘step up’ from Aviva Stadium – Doris

Home » Croke Park a ‘step up’ from Aviva Stadium – Doris

Leinster’s Caelan Doris says playing at Croke Park was a “step up” from the Aviva Stadium.

His side beat Northampton Saints 20-17 on Saturday to advance to a third consecutive Champions Cup final, with the 82,300 attendance setting a new competition record.

The four-time winners previously filled the Aviva Stadium for their quarter-final victory over La Rochelle, a ground Doris knows well as a 41-cap Irish international.

Leinster, who will play Toulouse in the final at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on 25 May, moved the semi-final across Dublin to the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) ground, with the Aviva Stadium hosting football’s Europa League final later this month.

“I think it was a level up,” said the back row.

“From doing the lap at the start of the warm-up and when we got around to Hill 16 especially, you could feel the energy and the noise from the crowd. It was special.

“When we ran out for the first half, it was a step up from what we’ve experienced in the Aviva, probably because of the nature of it being a rare occasion to play here.

“So many fans travelling over from the southside [of Dublin], I’m sure we’d a few from the northside as well, and from the rest of the province. It was a great atmosphere.”

Leinster led 20-3 early in the second half but Northampton scored the game’s final 14 points to push the Irish province right to the final whistle.

After such a strong finish to the game, Saints were left to regret their litany of errors across the opening half hour.

“Some of these players in our group like Courtney [Lawes] and Furbs [George Furbank] have been on the international scene and played a lot of international rugby in these environments,” said their director of rugby Phil Dowson when asked if his players had been taken aback by the atmosphere.

“Someone like George Hendy, who was playing for Bedford last year, hasn’t.

“There’s a mix of experience in there which would have had an impact, undoubtedly. Was that the difference? I’m not sure.

“We spoke a lot this week around wanting to play against the best sides and find out where we are. We also want to play in the best stadiums. This is a historic venue.

“We were excited about the opportunity to play in front of 82,000.”

‘Chasing Toulouse ever since’

With Toulouse beating Harlequins in the other last-four tie, the final will bring together the Champions Cup’s two most successful sides.

Only Toulouse, with five, have more titles than Leinster’s four.

“Toulouse are the standard bearers of the competition really,” said Leinster head coach Leo Cullen.

“Going back to the start of the competition, they were the ones out of the blocks first in terms of professionalism. You could see the set-up they had when the game went professional first.

“They were light years ahead of us, let’s be honest. We sort of feel that we’ve been chasing them ever since.

“For us, we just need to focus on ourselves and how we improve over the next few weeks. There’s lots of areas we can improve upon so it’s making sure the players have the right mentality in how they attack training and go after improvements.”

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