Saturday 21 January 2017

Threat of Wasps not lost on Dempsey

Published 13/11/2015 | 02:30

Leo Cullen and Johnny Sexton
Leo Cullen and Johnny Sexton

Leinster's draw against Wasps last January is still fresh enough in the memory of Girvan Dempsey to know that the English side pose a real threat at the RDS on Sunday.

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The result in Coventry was enough to seal Leinster's place in the Champions Cup quarter-final but this time around, they are seeking the kind of victory that will build confidence ahead of what will be a tough pool.

A mouthwatering back-to-back clash with reigning champions Toulon lies ahead next month but Dempsey insists that Leinster are not looking past Wasps this weekend.

"We started off with a block of 16 games in a row, every weekend. Now we are down to 12 and we aren't looking much further than Wasps at the moment because we know they are a big threat," Dempsey said.

"Bath are around the corner after that. We go to Ulster after that, Glasgow away, Toulon away and home, so you have that run into Christmas and then you are down in Thomond against Munster and back up here against Connacht- so if you look at the whole block you could get overawed.

"That is why we have narrowed our focus and tried to make sure we are good on Sunday and make sure we are focused for that because Wasps showed (last Sunday) that they are starting to hit a vein of form as they get guys back in.

"Premiership clubs have found things a bit difficult because of the stop-start nature of the Premiership over that World Cup period but I think now, in the last couple of weeks, you have started to see them implement some of their style and their game plan. They are starting to gel a bit better now."

A 23-3 win over Gloucester last weekend has served as a timely reminder of Wasps' quality. The English side include former All Black Charles Piutau, who is bound for Ulster next season, and Dempsey has warned that he is one of several evasive strike runners that Leinster must keep a close eye on.

"Piutau, I have watched him through the ITM (Cup) and for Auckland (Blues). He's a very dangerous attacking player," Dempsey maintained.

"He's shown he is a very strong, physical guy and he's elusive as well. He is a huge and fantastic addition to their squad.

"(Frank) Halai, likewise, is a good player and they've (Christian) Wade on the other wing, who's lightning quick. They've got a very strong, very quick back three.

"Look at the midfield, they have options. They've Elliot Daly and (Ben) Jacobs, Jimmy Downey.

"Jimmy (Gopperth) is going to miss out (through suspension). That's disappointing. It would have been good to have him back to the RDS."

Dempsey, Leinster's backs coach who spent the last few seasons coaching the 'A' side, has praised those who have made the step-up to the senior ranks during the World Cup window.

"I'm massively confident in all the guys who have had an opportunity so far.

"It's that World Cup window that comes up every four years when a lot of the fringe and academy players get an opportunity with the first team.

"All the coaches have been very pleased in how they have handled it and how they've stepped up to that level, constantly trying to help them through it and work on parts of their game but I think moving into Europe, it's a different challenge.

"But if you look at any of them you'd be more than confident in them if they were selected that they would be more than capable of doing a job."

Irish Independent

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