La Rochelle will need to stick to a narrow and controlled game-plan if they are to defeat Leinster in Saturday's Champions Cup final, according to Bernard Jackman.
The Irish province are favourites to land a fifth win of the competition, though Ronan O’Gara’s Top 14 side will be bristling to avenge their loss in last year’s decider.
Leinster are tipped by most observers to win on the back of some blistering displays in their last two outings, in blitzing Leicester in the opening 40 minutes of their quarter-final tie at Welford Road, and overcoming an early set-back against Toulouse to dominate the holders last time out.
The 40-17 win over Toulouse was a statement victory, but speaking on 2fm’s Game On, Jackman said he was surprised with Ugo Mola’s comments in the aftermath of his team’s semi-final loss at the Aviva Stadium, insisting they couldn’t compete as the ball was in play for 40 minutes.
'I don't think they will go wide, I think they will play very direct' - Speaking on @GameOn2fm, @bernardjackman assesses how La Rochelle might try to take on Leinster in Saturday's final pic.twitter.com/ZXecc5luyr— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) May 26, 2022
Jackman expects La Rochelle to have learned from Toulouse’s shortcomings.
"Toulouse allowed that happen (keep the ball in play). You can slow the game down without breaking the rules," he said.
"Find touch. Put the ball in the stand. Limit your handling errors. Don’t play as deep and as wide as Toulouse did.
"When you look at the profile of the La Rochelle side, with centres like Levani Botia and the French international Jonathan Danty and the way the forwards carry the ball, I don’t think they will go wide. I think they will play much more direct.
"The ball will be in the air for less time. It will become more about power and Leinster won’t be able to catch the opposition as far behind the gain line defensively as they did against Toulouse."
It might not be the free-flowing spectacle that we saw in the semi-final, or even the first half against Leicester, but yet, I think Leinster will have enough ball, and do enough with it, to build a score
While the former Ireland and Leinster hooker is expecting a close encounter, he can’t his old team leaving Marseilles without the silverware.
"There are lots of things La Rochelle will have learned from the (Leinster) semi-final.
"It might not be the free-flowing spectacle that we saw in the semi-final, or even the first half against Leicester, but yet, I think Leinster will have enough ball, and do enough with it, to build a score."
Follow Leinster v La Rochelle (Saturday 4.45pm) in the Champions Cup final via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/Sport and the RTÉ News app live or listen live on RTÉ Radio 1.