Leinster coach O'Connor: 'We're not worried about trophies at the moment'

The eastern province face Glasgow Warriors tomorrow in what looks like a must-win fixture.

LEINSTER HEAD COACH Matt O’Connor has branded his side’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Glasgow Warriors tomorrow at the RDS [KO 19.35] as “huge,” with the province currently sitting outside the league’s play-off positions.

Matt O'Connor O'Connor spoke to the media at the RDS today. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Openside flanker Shane Jennings, who captains Leinster against the Warriors, also admitted that pressure comes with the province’s current position, but underlined that the atmosphere within the group is entirely positive.

Leinster are currently fifth in the Pro12, two points off the Ospreys in fourth and with fixtures against Glasgow [H], the Dragons [A], Ulster [A], Treviso [H], and Edinburgh [A] remaining in the regular season.

Saturday, 4 April sees Leinster host Bath at the Aviva Stadium in the Champions Cup quarter-final, meaning the next fortnight is crucial to the success of their season. For now, the focus is entirely on the visiting Warriors.

Yeah, there is pressure to be fair, in terms of us being fifth,” said Jennings this afternoon at the RDS.

“But when you look at the table, you’ve got two teams ahead of us that we’re going to play [Glasgow and Ulster], so we’re hoping if we can get those points we’re going to do well.”

Jennings pointed to the fact that second position, and a home semi-final, remains achievable for Leinster, although it would take negative results from their contenders to ensure that happens.

“We haven’t been in this position before… well, I’m sure we have, but not in the last number of years,” said Jennings of Leinster being outside the top four at this stage of the season.

Shane Jennings Jennings captains Leinster against the Warriors tomorrow. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“So it’s important that we realise the importance of tomorrow. It’s a huge game and there’s no denying it or trying to take anything away from it.

“We’ve had a good week, we’ve prepared well and the guys who have come back in from national camp have been really positive in terms of their attitude. They’ve added value immediately and there’s an air of excitement around the place. It’s a nice place to be.”

Head coach O’Connor underlined that the coming months are “a really exciting part of the season” for his squad, while also stressing that his international players can now focus solely on Leinster.

There will be no more back and forth from Carton House to UCD for training; Leinster’s players have a singular concentration from here on.

So does this so-far stuttering Leinster season come down to their ability to secure at least one trophy in the coming months? Is silverware the only thing that can prevent 2014/15 being seen as a failed season?

We’re not worried about trophies at the moment,” said O’Connor, “it’s largely irrelevant. It’s about us doing what we can to control what happens to us. We’ve got a huge game against the league leaders and then a European quarter-final.

“Nobody is silly enough to focus on what happens beyond tomorrow night. What happens in the next three or four weeks will determine who does and who doesn’t put themselves in a position to win trophies.

“But we have to make sure we put a marker down tomorrow night and get as many points out of the game as possible.”

Matt O'Connor O'Connor leads the way as Leinster head for training. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

In terms of his team selection, O’Connor explained that absent lock Kane Douglas is dealing with a hamstring issue at present, but should come back into the mix for the Bath clash next weekend.

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Eoin Reddan, Jordi Murphy, Marty Moore and Ian Madigan return to Leinster’s starting XV after helping Ireland to the Six Nations, while Sean Cronin, Cian Healy and Luke Fitzgerald are in reserve on the bench.

Madigan starts at 12 alongside out-half Jimmy Gopperth, a combination O’Connor has been happy with this season.

“They’ve been good for us, they’ve played the last two European games there and they give us a lot of threat,” said O’Connor.

“They give us to the ability to pass and kick, find space and exploit any opportunities that there are on the pitch. We’ll be looking to capitalise on that tomorrow night.”

O’Connor cryptically said that there had “potentially” been a temptation to push Luke Fitzgerald into his XV to face Glasgow, but the Australian head coach intimated that he was happy to give other players a chance to impress ahead of the Bath fixture.

Thankfully we’ve got the luxury of a lot of guys back in the environment, so there’s a little bit of an opportunity to have a look at guys in different slots and see what the best combinations are, relative to what we think Bath will deliver on,” said O’Connor.

“First and foremost, we’ve got to make sure that we get the points tomorrow night and we put out a performance that sets us up in a good place for the quarter-final.

“There’s still a lot of opportunities for guys in and around the group to stake a claim for starting spots and bench spots for the quarter-final. We wanted to give as many guys as possible the opportunity to do that.”

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Murray Kinsella

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