O'Driscoll: We must tighten up our game

LEINSTER face a season-defining month with their talisman Brian O'Driscoll declaring that they need to step up their game if it is not all to turn sour for the defending European champions.

After tonight's visit to the Sportsgrounds, Leinster host Munster in a mouth-watering clash at Lansdowne Road in eight days' time, followed by their opening two Heineken Cup pool games as they begin the pursuit of a European hat-trick.

"We need to improve, we have been up and down," admits the Irish captain, who misses this evening's trip to Galway to face Connacht in the Pro12.

"We've been creating some good opportunities but letting teams back into it."

O'Driscoll claims that the Irish inter-provincial clashes are getting "bigger and bigger" -- even though he will miss the trip to Connacht under the IRFU's Player Management Programme.

As well as O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip and Kevin McLaughlin are omitted entirely from Leinster's match-day squad, while Cian Healy and Mike Ross are only on the bench.

The side is bolstered, though, by the seasonal bow of Rob Kearney (pictured), the 40th player to be used by Leinster in a fitful opening month which has nevertheless produced three wins in four matches. However, O'Driscoll admits that his team's extraordinarily high standards have resulted in Leinster demanding even more from themselves as they face into a pivotal month.


"All aspects of our game need to tighten up, otherwise we'll be in for a bit of a shock when we take on even Exeter, who'll be champing at the bit when they come over to us in that opening Heineken Cup game," he adds. "But before all that we have a couple of inter-provincial matches and we're well aware they're not going to take it too handy on us.

"It's a good opportunity over the next four weeks to get back playing where we know we can be. But it's important we get there quickly. They're big games and they're coming thick and fast."

While Leinster liberally pick and choose which players to rest, beleaguered Connacht coach Eric Elwood has been forced to struggle with the loss of up to 20 players over the last fortnight.

One chink of light has emerged with the recuperation to full fitness of former Scotland out-half Dan Parks, who will begin a competitive rugby match for the first time in four months after calf problems delayed the 34-year-old's Connacht debut.