Tuesday 28 March 2017

McGrath eyes top spot before facing into Connacht test

Luke McGrath: 'They have threats all around the park and if we're going to win this, our defence is going to have to be on point.' (SPORTSFILE)
Luke McGrath: 'They have threats all around the park and if we're going to win this, our defence is going to have to be on point.' (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

high praise for Gregor Townsend has been emanating from Leinster HQ all week but the prize at the stake for this evening's winners is enough to ensure that the focus remains on the task at hand.

For Glasgow, it's a chance to cut the gap as the play-off race heats up while for Leinster, a win would see them leapfrog Connacht before they play the Westerners next week.

Last season's champions have yet to really hit top form this season and while Leo Cullen and his players may be full of admiration for the job that Townsend has done at Glasgow, there is an awareness that despite their indifferent form, they still carry a major threat.

Tough

"That's definitely in our mind, especially with the games coming up," scrum-half Luke McGrath said of the prize at stake.

"It's a very tough run-in for us. It's exciting but it's going to be very difficult.

"They've (Connacht) been brilliant. They've been the real form team. They've been scoring loads and loads of tries and playing really good rugby so like you say it's a good opportunity for us to go above them."

Connacht will pose an altogether different challenge in Galway next week but should Leinster come away with two wins, they will be firmly in the driving seat.

McGrath, however, isn't looking beyond Glasgow tonight.

"Glasgow will be a very tough game. Obviously they have two games in hand but they've been very competitive for the last while," he maintained.

"We know that they're reigning champions so it's going to a very tough game, especially over there.

"Gregor Townsend is a brilliant coach. He has them very well drilled. They hold onto the ball very well and their offloading game is one of the best in the Pro12.

"We know they have threats all around the park and if we're going to win this, our defence is going to have to be on point."

Having had a week off last week, McGrath insisted that having watched Ireland rip Italy to shreds, the Leinster players are desperate to get back out on the pitch and build on their good run of form.

"When you don't have a game and you look at Ireland playing really well, throwing the ball around, I think it just gets you excited for the weekend ahead. I think everyone is happy to just play a game again."

For Dan Leavy, tonight is another chance to stake his claim for a more regular spot in what is an ultra-competitive back-row and, like McGrath, he is relishing the challenge of going up against the defending champions in their own back yard.

"We are really looking forward to it. Glasgow are reigning champs from last year. They are always going to be a big challenge," Leavy said.

Challenge

"They have a couple of sensational players and with Gregor Townsend as coach, they're always going to be a big threat.

"Learning from the Ospreys game team-wise, I just think we need to be more clinical.

"We've got to take all the points we can and be clinical over there, scrap for everything because it's not going to come easy."

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