Friday, December 12, 2014

Preview : Leinster v Harlequins


LEHHHHHHN-STER! LEHHHHHHN-STER!!!

Earlier this week I did a piece on Jimmy Gopperth's proposed move to Wasps.

My concern wasn't so much that in his particular case he might be influenced when we play them next January, it was more that maybe clubs shouldn't be allowed to approach players they are due to face in big matches in the immediate future.  I have no idea how we could go about preventing it, but I still wanted to express my annoyance.

One good thing that did arise from the piece was a decent amount of good will in the comments towards the player himself.  

Though many have pretty much pinned all of Leinster problems on the Kiwi's form and by extension the coach who continues to select him, it was heartening to see some contrary opinion because I, too, believe our problems this season go beyond the actions of the head coach and one player.

But we could debate that until the cows come home, and there's a match to be won on Saturday night at HQ.  What can we do as fans to help the boys focused on getting the job done?

COME....ON....YOU....BOYS IN BLUE!!!

It's probably going to be a freezing cold night, so the best thing we can do is clap our hands, wave our flags and scream our lungs out to be the 24th squad member we know we can be.  That the boys in blue need us to be.

Because the "job" to which I refer is by no means an easy one, BUT it is doable.  Despite last weekend's defeat at the Stoop, Leinster are very much still in with a shout of not only reaching the Champions Cup quarterfinals, but also securing a home one.

With just five pools instead of six, should we top our own we only have to be better than the winners of one other pool to be at home in the final eight; the squad have to believe this is something we can do, especially given that only two of the pools have 100% records after 3 rounds, and we can do something about one of them ourselves this Saturday.

I say all of this before I look at the Leinster lineup itself, and if anything it's better than the one we sent to London.

If we're judging Gopperth on form (which let's face it we have done all season) then we have to assume he'll bring the same game as last week, and with Eoin Reddan a bit behind the pace we will need Isaac Boss on top of his own game to provide the quick ball.

Now I have to break one of my personal policies, one which is totally based on superstition.  Basically I'm afraid to say anything positive about Luke Fitzgerald's form in case I have somehow offended rugby's injury gods.

But he was at his best on the wing last week and if he carries on in that vein he could be just the spark we need at 13 and with Kirchner, Fanning and Kearney also there to run inside lines our backs can definitely give Lowe & Hopper an even busier 80 minutes than six days before.

First though, we must of course HAVE the ball, and for that we  look to the pack.  It wasn't so much that we got munched in scrums last week, more that we weren't able to find a way to adapt to what the Quins front row was doing.

I have a feeling Monsieur Poite might not treat any im"prop"rieties as kindly as his fellow countryman did last time around, and if so we need to at least neutralise the their scrum from the off.  A steadier lineout will be vital as well...just get the darts straight and we're most of the way there.

But where we need the crowd most is for our back row.  Conor O'Shea is missing two players on which we would have been relying to keep his side within touching distance - but neither Nick Evans nor Chris Robshaw are available.

Nick Easter may have been man of the match last week but in Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip and Jack Conan we have a rake of big hits, big carries and big steals waiting to be unleashed on the visitors and nothing must go unrewarded by the tens of thousands of Leinster fans.

IN DUBLIN'S FAIR CITY, WHERE THE GIRLS ARE SO PRETTY....

It's an occasion where all negativity must be left behind.  Remember how low we felt when we reached last year's Pro12 final - because even though we got past the Ulstermen in the semifinal, it wasn't the most inspiring display.  But the boys brought it when it really mattered against Glasgow and they can do it again on Saturday.

Bookies say we'll do it by 11 points.  I think we can beat that.  I'm going for a 5-0 points split on the night.  Whatever form we have shown this season, the best way to address that is on the pitch and a huge helping of belief from the supporters certainly can't hurt.

I say we get that Aviva rockin.  You in?  Excellent. See you there!

#COYBIB JLP

HARLEQUINS : 15. Mike Brown 14. Marland Yarde 13. Matt Hopper 12. George Lowe 11. Aseli Tikoirotuma 10. Tim Swiel 9. Danny Care
1. Joe Marler© 2. Dave Ward 3. Will Collier 4. Charlie Matthews 5. George Robson 6. Luke Wallace 7. Jack Clifford 8. Nick Easter
16. Joe Gray 17. Mark Lambert 18. Kyle Sinckler 19. Sam Twomey 20. Joe Trayfoot 21. Karl Dickson 22. Tom Casson 23. Ross Chisholm

European Rugby Champions Cup Pool 2
Saturday 13th December 2014, KO 7:45pm
Aviva Stadium
Live on BT Sport
Referee: Romain Poite (Fra)
AR1 : Christophe Berdos (Fra)
AR2 : Stephane Boyer (Fra)
TMO : Eric Gonthier (Fra)

Leinster A squad v Plymouth Albion (B&I Cup Pool 5, Saturday 2pm at Donnybrook) : 15. Billy Dardis 14. Cian Kelleher 13. Garry Ringrose 12. Steve Crosbie 11. Sam Coghlan Murray 10. Cathal Marsh 9. Luke McGrath CAPTAIN 
1. Peter Dooley 2. Aaron Dundon 3. Royce Burke Flynn 4. Ben Marshall 5. Ross Molony 6. Jordan Coghlan 7. Josh Van Der Flier 8. Peadar Timmins 
Replacements: 16. James Tracy 17. Nicolaas 'Maks' Van Dyk 18. Tadhg Beirne 19. Nick Timoney 20. Charlie Rock 21. Tom Farrell 22. Adam Byrne

Try to make Donnybrook for 2pm if you can - the A team may have wrapped up their pool, but there's plenty to catch our interest in this one...Cian Kelleher has been scoring tries for fun of late from fullback and starts here on the wing.  Luke McGrath skippers the side and Gary Ringrose gets the chance to see some action in a Leinster 13 jumper.

Given Plymouth are bottom of the RFU Championship their minds may be elsewhere but I still expect them to put up a decent opposition.  Waterford-born ex-Connacht player Eoghan Grace starts for them at openside flanker.

I hope to be liveblogging the game and should you take the option of watching the Euro action from the confines of your living room, tune in if you can!
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