The pitfalls are very apparent to Leinster’s Director of Rugby Leo Cullen, as he prepares his side for this weekend’s epic Heineken Champions’ Cup semi-final against French giants Toulouse in Dublin.

And while that game is front and centre on everyone’s minds at the moment, Leinster’s path in both tournaments is a tough one, and the memories of their losses last year in the semifinal stage of both competition is still fresh.

"Everyone was waxing lyrical about the semi-final last year and it was as if we had to just turn up for the final,” said Cullen.

"But you're going up against a team like La Rochelle – unbelievably heavily-resourced – you're up against the top teams and they only lap up all that media stuff that all you guys have delivered.

"You've got to control the hype – that's the game."

Cullen is keen not to repeat the blowout of last season where his team came unstuck in both tournaments and ended up without any silverware. He even referenced Limerick’s win in hurling to signify how important it was in the local circles that they get it right this year.

"I'm just worried internally. Like, Limerick won last year, we didn't and that's all I remember,” Cullen explained.

The Vodacom Bulls knocked Leinster out of the Vodacom URC semi-finals last season.

The Vodacom Bulls knocked Leinster out of the Vodacom URC semi-finals last season.

"All I remember is the disappointment of losing in Marseilles and losing at home at the RDS against the Bulls. That's what is freshest in my mind.

"It's just disrespectful to everyone we play against. I'm sure it's just winding up the narrative in their minds. I said it about hype, it's week on week on week.”

Cullen pointed out that Toulouse are in the same boat, having missed out on the Heineken Champions’ Cup win last season and were preparing for an epic battle at the Aviva Stadium.

“Toulouse are the most successful team in the competition, they lost at this stage last year. What do you think their motivation is? It's through the roof," he said.

"They didn't send their starting XV to Paris (against Stade Francais) last week, so what do you think their motivation is? We've tried to narrow the gap and we're still chasing them. They're still the most successful team in the competition and it will have stung them losing last year.

"It's clear what their focus is – it's coming after us. We need to make sure we're ready for it and do everything we can to deliver on the big days."

There are several big days ahead, as Leinster will face the Cell C Sharks in the Vodacom URC quarter-final next weekend, and a possible semi-final against Glasgow Warriors or Munster the week after that.

Stade Rochelais beat Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup final last season.

Stade Rochelais beat Leinster in the Heineken Champions Cup final last season.

Then, if they make the European final it’s likely to be defending champions Stade Rochelais the next week and then whoever is lucky enough to travel to Dublin for the Vodacom URC final the week after that.

With tickets costing close to R1500 each for the semi-final, they have struggled to sell – with 37 000 being sold at the start of the week. Cullen is desperate to see that turn into a full-house.

"I'm sure Toulouse, what's freshest in their mind is losing against us because of the pride they have in the competition," he said.

"It's just like we have pride so yeah, hopefully the Aviva is a sea of blue. It's so hard to win because there are other teams that are desperate to win.

“Stade Rochelais, after last year's Champions Cup final, they're back in the port and there's 200,000 people out in force.”

But all that matters is the old mantra of taking it week for week. Cullen knows the immediate challenge is Toulouse, who are well-financed, and will arrive with pride and momentum. If they can survive that challenge without too many injuries, it’s on to the next.

All the while other opposition will be eyeing them to catch them off-guard. Leinster’s greatest strength is their depth and they know that, but in the end it takes one poor performance to end a season. And after last year Cullen is all too aware of that.