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Dublin: 7 °C Sunday 8 December, 2019
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Leinster right where they want to be as business end of season arrives

With a two-point cushion going into the final two games of the season, the eastern province are masters of their own destiny.

Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

IGNORE THE EUROPEAN travails. Ignore the disappointing defeats that chequered the league campaign.

The table is a bad liar, and with only two games to go before the Pro12 play-offs, Leinster are right where they want to be. Top.

That could change this Saturday when they meet an Ulster side desperate for points to push them closer to the two provinces that they share a border with.

Desperation though, can work two ways. And Leinster will be an assured visitor with a confidence in the knowledge that the onus is on Ulster to force the issue.

Leinster, after all, have never called a first-place finish their objective. It’s a top two placing and the home semi-final that matters most before the Edinburgh final. To secure that, Leo Cullen’s men must keep their nose ahead of Ulster and third-placed Glasgow – eight and two points shy of the leaders respectively.

“It’s a huge game for them as well,” Devin Toner said in UCD yesterday, “but we’ve always been saying it’s good to have it in our own hands going in to the end of the season and getting that home semi-final is what we want.”

That’s our goal, that’s what we need and we’re going to do whatever we can to get it.”

A weekend of sparsely-populated Champions Cup semi-finals made most rugby fans on this island long for the days when Irish crowds thronged European cities for the occasion.  Players can’t quite afford to look wistfully backwards in the same manner though, so Toner and his team-mates are hoping the weekend off can be a benefit ahead of the make-or-break portion of the campaign.

“We’re not happy not being involved in the Champions Cup, but as a whole we’re happy with how we’re playing. We were happy to get a bonus point against Edinburgh, not so happy to let three in.

“As a squad we’re in a good place, everyone enjoys coming in to work and it’s a good environment to be in. Hopefully we can build on that in the next couple of weeks.

Chill out

“The S&C guys could see a weekend off (coming), so it was a tough week last week. Friday was particularly tough. It was a good way to rejuvenate the body and lads are solely focused on this game coming in now.

“It’s not very hard to be motivated for games like these. When lads get the weekend off, they chill out and take time about things, but I don’t think we’ll have trouble getting motivated for this part of the season.”

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Sean Farrell

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