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Leinster looking for kick start with dangerous Glasgow in town

Matt O’Connor has a handful of international players back for this evening’s clash at the RDS.

“IT’S A HUGE test for us to see what kind of team we are.”

Shane Jennings doesn’t really beat around the bush, so when he indicates that Leinster still have something to learn about themselves heading into the most crucial weeks of the season, it might be cause for concern.

Ian Madigan celebrates at the final whistle Ian Madigan celebrates last year's Pro12 final win over the Warriors. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

On the other hand, the above quote perhaps hints at the frustration the province feel at the constant chopping and changing forced on their match day 23 in recent times, with their usual strong international contingent having been away through the Six Nations.

A handful return this evening against Glasgow [KO 19.35, TG4], but some only to the bench, while others are entirely absent. Currently sitting fifth in the Guinness Pro12 table and up against the league leaders at the RDS, head coach Matt O’Connor could have used his most valued leaders.

A glance at the Warriors team sheet will show the likes Stuart Hogg, Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett and Finn Russell all starting despite their extensive involvement in Scotland’s Six Nations campaign.

Such is the exasperation of the provincial Irish coach.

Sometimes picking your strongest match day 23 for a vitally important league fixture simply isn’t possible, these things are out of your hands. The only expectation is that other provinces are limited in a similar manner; one rule for all?

Despite the missing big names for such an important fixture as this evening’s, Leinster must maintain their focus on performance. One win in their four Six Nations-period fixtures simply wasn’t up to the standard they set for themselves during that window last season.

The combined effect is that Leinster are on the outside of the play-off positions looking in, an unfamiliar vantage point with five regular season rounds remaining.

Looming in the background too is the Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath, making this an intense fortnight for O’Connor’s side.

Zane Kirchner scores his side's opening try Zane Kirchner scored against Glasgow last year at the RDS. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“It’s huge,” says the former Leicester and Brumbies coach. “We can’t afford to drop any points in the league, we need to make sure that as much as we can control what happens, we’ve got to win.

“A game at the RDS against Glasgow is the perfect lead-in to Bath, but it’s the only thing we’re interested in.”

Defeats to Scarlets and the Dragons during that Six Nations period particularly rankled with players, coaches and supporters alike and O’Connor has identified one clear area where Leinster need to improve this evening.

“I think the biggest disappointment in the last couple of games in the Pro12 has been our ability or lack of ability to look after possession,” explains O’Connor.

“I think we’ve turned over the ball cheaply way too many times and that has given the opposition way too many opportunities with the ball. That’s put our defensive systems under a little bit of pressure because of the opportunities we’ve handed out very, very cheaply.

“That’s been the focus this week, to make sure that our ball security and our ability to build pressure off the back of recycling the ball in the right areas is better. Going on the training week that we’ve had, we’ve certainly made some improvements in that area.”

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Glasgow have tough memories of the RDS in recent times, having been beaten there in last year’s Pro12 final, as well as at the semi-final stages in both 2013 and 2012. Not a happy hunting ground for Gregor Townsend’s exciting side.

Nigel Owens Nigel Owens should ensure a high-tempo game this evening. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Warriors have had a more successful run that Leinster in recent months though, with four wins in their five last games. That form coincides with the return of some exciting international quality in the backline, meaning the Scots are well primed.

“From their point of view, they see it as an opportunity to knock us out of the top four completely,” outlines Jennings.

“The team that they picked, with the quality that they have in it, they way they play, the results they’ve been getting in the last while; they’re a very complete squad and team.

They’re definitely coming here to give it a crack. It’s a good test for us”

Those tests come thick and fast for O’Connor’s side in the coming weeks. This is cup rugby.

“It’s the first step in a number of steps,” says Jennings of this evening’s game, “because if we don’t perform, we won’t be there. It’s in our control. If we want to get to semi-finals and finals and compete for trophies, we have to win every week.”

Leinster

15. Zane Kirchner
14. Fergus McFadden
13. Ben Te’o
12. Ian Madigan
11. Dave Kearney
10. Jimmy Gopperth
9. Eoin Reddan

1. Michael Bent
2. Richardt Strauss
3. Marty Moore
4. Tom Denton
5. Mike McCarthy
6. Jordi Murphy
7. Shane Jennings (captain)
8. Jack Conan

Replacements:

16. Sean Cronin
17. Cian Healy
18. Tadhg Furlong
19. Ben Marshall
20. Dominic Ryan
21. Isaac Boss
22. Gordon D’Arcy
23. Luke Fitzgerald

Glasgow

15. Stuart Hogg
14. Tommy Seymour
13. Mark Bennett
12. Peter Horne
11. DTH van der Merwe
10. Finn Russell
9. Niko Matawalu

1. Alex Allan
2. Fraser Brown
3. Zander Fagerson
4. Tim Swinson
5. Al Kellock (captain)
6. Rob Harley
7. Chris Fusaro
8. Josh Strauss

Replacements:

16. Pat MacArthur
17. Jerry Yanuyanutawa
18. Mike Cusack
19. Jonny Gray
20. Adam Ashe
21. Henry Pyrgos
22. Connor Braid
23. Richie Vernon

Referee: Nigel Owens.

Originally published 07.00

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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