Champions Cup final: Leinster must find 'another gear' to beat Racing 92

Dan Leavy has urged Leinster to find another gear as they prepare to face Racing in Bilbao. Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Dan Leavy believes Leinster must find an extra gear if they are to beat Racing 92 and secure a fourth European Cup triumph.

Leinster booked their place in Saturday's Champions Cup final in Bilbao with a semifinal destruction of Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium that many observers viewed as close to perfect.

However, despite racking up five tries within an hour while monopolising possession and territory and dominating every meaningful statistic, Leavy insists the mood in the changing rooms afterwards was a strange one.

"We were pretty clinical," the Ireland back row said of Leinster's semifinal performance. "I definitely think there's another gear in us and we all kind of knew ourselves.

"It was a weird kind of feeling in the changing room after, because we knew that we had a big win, you know, and we were pretty dominant but we all kind of knew, we looked at each other and kind of knew there's more in us and there's another gear. Hopefully there's another level."

The sheer depth of talent available to Racing coaches Laurent Labit and Laurent Travers was highlighted in the last four as former All Blacks Dan Carter and Joe Rokocoko began the defeat of Munster on the bench, while Argentine speedster Juan Imhoff was forced to watch on from the stands.

"Racing are an incredible team, a lot of big names, big-game experience," Leavy added. "Their strength in depth is pretty incredible and they [finished] second in the Top 14 with the best defence in the league. It definitely will [need an extra gear] to break them.

"They've got the best defence in the Champions Cup this far as well, so it's going to take a special effort and we're all pretty aware of it. So, again, we're going to have to find that gear."

Despite Leavy's protestations to the contrary, Leinster will begin Saturday's final as favourites having reached the showpiece unbeaten, and with the scalps of the defending Aviva Premiership, PRO14 and European champions in their collective back pocket.

Victory over Racing this weekend, to add to those against Exeter (twice), Scarlets and Saracens en route to Bilbao, will only further help former England coach Stuart Lancaster on his personal road to redemption.

According to Leavy, it is head coach Leo Cullen who created the province's culture but Lancaster has been pivotal in driving standards since he arrived as senior coach in September 2016.

"Stuart came in and revolutionised the way we train and the standards we expect of each other," he said. "We just train at a very high intensity, so when it comes to games it's a bit slower and it is manageable.

"If you're working really hard, testing yourself mentally and physically non-stop at a really high pace, when it comes to the game you are more conditioned to it, and you feel like you have a little bit more time."

It was confirmed on Tuesday that Leinster would be without Fergus McFadden in Bilbao after the wing failed to recover from the hamstring injury he picked up while scoring a try in the semifinal.

Racing have their own fitness concerns, meanwhile, with influential France scrum-half Maxim Machenaud ruled out of the showpiece match. Teddy Iribaren is likely to deputise for the Top 14 club's captain.

"They have incredible strength in depth but he is a loss," Leavy said. "He's a leader for them and is a great player.

"You never celebrate when someone gets injured and I feel for him as a player, but we'll take it as it is. We still have a huge test ahead of us."