Tuesday 22 August 2017

Leinster look to keep momentum going for play-offs

Leo Cullen head coach of Leinster and Mike Ross during a press conference at the RDS Arena in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Leo Cullen head coach of Leinster and Mike Ross during a press conference at the RDS Arena in Ballsbridge, Dublin. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

This is the season's twilight zone for Leinster. Europe ended in disappointment last Sunday and their next match of any real consequence takes place in three weeks' time when they host a Guinness PRO12 semi-final so between now and then it's all about keeping the show going.

Leo Cullen has rested most of those who started in Lyon when Leinster exited the Champions Cup at the hands of Clermont Auvergne.

Tonight they welcome a Glasgow Warriors team who can't qualify for the post-season, but are securely in the European top tier for next year.

So, there's little to play for at the RDS which should ensure both teams at least have a go.

For Cullen, it is all about sustaining momentum so that they can hit the ground running when results matter again in three weeks' time.

"These two weeks are very short weeks," he said. "We came back Sunday very late, we were in Monday doing the review (of the Clermont loss).

"It is painful, it is tough for everyone to go through but it is important that we try to learn some lessons so that we can try to get a little better if we are in that scenario again or if we are involved in big games in the next few weeks.

"Players have come back in, had a bit of time, because there is a very short prep leading to this game this week. It is trying to get the right balance between trying to make sure we have got guys fully motivated going into the game and putting a performance together.

"Everyone wants to get back because after a loss there is good windows for guys because if they play well we have Ulster next week though, unfortunately, then there is another break but we will still train that week and then we are in preparation for a semi-final.

"There is a lot at stake and it comes around very quickly."

Read more: Vote for your Guinness PRO12 Independent.ie Try of the Season and win two tickets to the PRO 12 final

Things had been going Leinster's way until the first 20 minutes at the Stade Gerland on Sunday and Cullen conceded that Clermont exposed some defensive flaws that they had been previously aware of.

"They caught us with a little bit of width on the outside," he said.

"It is something we were conscious of going into the game and a couple of occasions in training we had been a little bit exposed when fatigued but, sure in the heat of battle, it is just about being aware of those extra guys on the edges.

"I thought Clermont were a smart in the way avoided us but we could be better from our end. There was plenty of areas, particularly in the first half, we can improve."

If Glasgow - and Ulster next week - pose similar questions it should steel Leinster for their end-of-season trophy hunt.

On their last regular-season home game, Mike Ross will bid farewell while Dominic Ryan is likely to be saying goodbye too as he heads for a likely exit. Cullen confirmed that no new deal has been agreed with the flanker who is likely to head to England.

Isa Nacewa, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath, Tadhg Furlong and Devin Toner are among those given the weekend off, with Ross Molony named captain for the first time and Nick McCarthy handed his first start at scrum-half.

It should be fast and loose.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster - Z Kirchner; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, T Daly, F McFadden; R Byrne, N McCarthy; P Dooley, J Tracy, M Ross; R Molony (capt), M Kearney; D Ryan, J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: R Strauss, J McGrath, M Bent, I Nagle, D Leavy, J Gibson-Park, J Carbery, N Reid.

Glasgow Warriors - T Seymour; L Sarto, N Grigg, S Johnson, L Jones; P Horne, H Pyrgos; A Allan, F Brown, S Puifasi; B Alainu'uese, J Gray; T Swinson, C Fusaro, A Ashe. Reps: P MacArthur, G Reid, Z Fagerson, R Harley, M Fagerson, A Price, F Russell, A Dunbar.

Ref - M Mitrea (Italy)

Leinster v Glasgow Warriors, Live, TG4, 7.35

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport