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2016 thrashing has little relevance to 1/4 final, but Leinster won't forget bitter memory of Wasps

“As a younger player who has never won any European titles with Leinster, you might feel you left the jersey down that day.”

USUALLY, IT’S HANDY enough to look back at the most recent meeting between two teams and find something instructive in the match for the next time they clash.

So with Leinster about to face Wasps in the Champions Cup quarter-final, a fixture just over a year old, in the same competition with the same coaches ought to be a good barometer for what’s ahead, right?

Thankfully, from Leinster’s point of view, the 51 – 10 thrashing offers little of real relevance.

The team-sheet Leo Cullen names this Friday will have a very different look to the squad that was swept away in the Ricoh Arena last January. Three of the Leinster 23 from the round six meeting last January have retired, two have left to play in England (including Marty Moore who will be among the opposition this weekend) while eight more are either injured or yet to play after injury.

The Leinster team dejected after the last try of the game Source: James Crombie/INPHO

That just leaves Jonathan Sexton, Jack McGrath, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock and Noel Reid left over from that starting line-up  - and Reid would be a shock starter ahead of Robbie Henshaw.

The biggest difference though, will be the stakes on the table. Last January, Leinster were already out of the running for quarter-final spots while Wasps were chasing a home berth in the last eight. This time around, the two sides, top of their respective leagues, are a much better match for each other.

“They’ve played 18 lost three, scored about 70-odd tries,” said Stuart Lancaster, who had taken some of his commute from Leeds this morning to compare the Premiership and Pro12 tables.

Josh van der Flier and Peter Dooley JVDF and Peter Dooley top up on sunscreen before today's training session. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I think we’ve played 18, lost three and scored 70-odd tries. So it’s two attacking forces coming against each other and something’s going to have to break at some point.”

“We’re a different team from last year, it’s fair to say. I’ve watched those games back, but I’m confident in the preparation we’ll do this week. We’ve had a number of players unavailable and it’s a matter of getting them up to speed and back into the Leinster way of doing things.”

Tadhg Furlong is one of those men who has spent the past week shifting the plays and calls from the Six Nations out and restoring his club’s language to the tip of his tongue.


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Stuart Lancaster Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It all came back surprisingly easy to be honest with you,” said the prop showing no residual ill effects from a gruelling Six Nations campaign. Indeed, the only hint of fatigue was in his face when he was tasked with a fourth media obligation. And once that was done he bounded up the flight of stairs in Leinster HQ in four or five powerful strides.

The shoulders of Furlong and his playing peers at Leinster are not weight free, however. When we put the incomparability of the forthcoming fixture and the loss to Wasps last season, the Wexford man is clearly still annoyed by the result – even though he wasn’t one of the four props selected that day.

“It’s only last year as well. There are certain key bodies there who are available to us. It was a very disappointing day. Yeah, we were out of the pool, but on the last game of it you want to put on a performance.

We let ourselves down that day, but looking at this year it probably drove us on. A lot of bodies are after coming into the environment and adding.

“As a younger player who has never won any European titles with Leinster, you might feel you left the jersey down that day.

“We have responsibility to bounce back and put a performance in that we can be proud of.”

Perhaps their most recent meeting will have some bearing on the Champions Cup quarter-final then. So you can be certain it will be a very different kind of game.

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Sean Farrell

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