Ultimate test of Blues' steel

Schmidt's men have psychological hurdle to jump after intensity of last week only delivered a bonus point

Eric Miller

With 45,000 spectators getting ready to snuggle up in what is expected to be a bitterly cold Aviva Stadium tomorrow, you can expect the complete opposite when the two sides go to battle in a game that is far from a foregone conclusion.

The pressure is now on the home side, especially with their injury worries.

Clermont, despite comments to the contrary, will be happier to play at the national stadium than the more intimidating cauldron of The RDS.

It's strange how such things go. You cannot blame the powers that be for wanting to have the game played at the Aviva because of sheer numbers, but the venue, it has to be said, offers a much more international feel to the game and I think that suits the travelling side.

When I played with Leinster, for example, I always remember being happier about playing the London sides like Wasps or London Irish at Twickenham.

I saw that as a neutral venue and I felt it offered a much more level playing field. My instinct would tell me that the French feel the same this time round.

It would be interesting to know Joe Schmidt's thoughts on the venue.

For the corresponding fixture last year, Michael Cheika insisted it was to be played at The RDS.

The current management may not mind either way but the build-up so far has certainly gone more smoothly for the away team, who have declared that tomorrow's game will make or break their season.

Strong words, especially from a French side, and no doubt it will add a little more spice to proceedings.

Leinster, despite some notable absentees, are playing a good brand of football at the moment and it suits the make up of the side to keep the ball on the move.

By making the physically bigger French side work a lot harder -- not only around the park but at the set piece -- they came within a whisker of sneaking a win last weekend.

Shane Jennings can count himself unlucky that his try was not allowed. Games of this nature turn on such decisions.

It was the first time that I witnessed Clermont unable to go up the gears after taking the lead. They seemed happy to hang in there until the final whistle, which I thought was quite unusual.

It was a tribute to a great Leinster effort. The Blues can still improve on their lineout and for the second game in, I expect that Leo Cullen will have done his homework from last week.

There are not many better players than Leo at placing maximum pressure on an opposition lineout ball.

One of the bigger questions will be whether Leinster can bring it all to the table again this week. It will be a massive ask to front up again but 45,000 blue supporters in festive mood should carry them an extra yard or two.

Despite Eoin O'Malley's stand-out performance last weekend, the fitness of O'Driscoll, you feel, may be critical for this match.


Clermont's outside backs do take some stopping and have a physical edge that could prove crucial at the end of another bruiser of a match.

Ultimately, it is the psychological battle that will be Leinster's biggest challenge tomorrow.

Everyone knows they can win but the lads must convince themselves of the same.

That will be difficult, if things are put in context. They would have felt that they threw everything into last week's game and got only a bonus point from it.

They know it will take the same again and probably more to come out the right end of this one.

That will be a tough mental challenge, particularly as bodies have already been pushed to the limit.

This will be the truest test yet of Leinster's resolve.

They have the character, and that is something that the French have yet to prove.

The top two inches, you can be sure, will count for everything tomorrow.