Leinster facing five-day turnaround for crucial Euro clashes
LEINSTER will be forced to play two games in five days next month in a controversial move by Heineken Cup organisers ERC.
The three-time European Cup winners are expected to be handed a daunting task in their final two pool games when the fixtures are confirmed today.
Their visit to face French champions Castres looks set to take place on Sunday, January 12, and their final Pool 6 game against the Ospreys is likely to be fixed for the following Friday, January 17.
It means that Matt O'Connor's side face limited recovery time after they return from France for their final pool game, which could determine their European fate.
Last Saturday's shock defeat to Northampton blew the pool wide open and while Leinster are still top and four points clear of the Saints, their chances of securing a home quarter-final will be dented by having to play the final two games so close together.
Leinster star Jamie Heaslip maintains that his side are in a strong position going into January, but the fixtures are unlikely to go down well at the club's base in UCD.
"It would have been nice to have four out of four (wins) but three out of four is not a bad spot going into the Christmas break," he said.
Meanwhile, Ulster received a major boost yesterday when Rory Best committed to the club by signing an IRFU contract until 2016. The 70-times capped Ireland hooker is the latest member of the national squad to sign up to a new deal, following Donnacha Ryan and Conor Murray.
"The support that I received when I missed out on the initial Lions squad (last April) was a massive factor in me making the decision to stay," he said.
"That made me feel very special and underlined to me that Ulster is more than a team, it is a community and a rugby family."
How the IRFU are winning the star wars with France: Pages 70-71