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Cheika facing into back row dilemma

Leinster's class shone through in the dying moments of a mainly scrappy fixture but one that was captivating nonetheless.

A reinvigorated Brive outfit certainly came to play, although they did end up defending for large parts of the match. The away side's hunger was evident particularly in the times when the champions looked odds on to pinch a few tries, only to be snuffed out by some excellent cover defence.

Cheika would have been pleased with the scoreline considering the pressure his team had to soak up. I would not say that the visitors were robbed by the end result, largely due to the clinical finishing from the Blues at the right times.

However, Leinster did look rusty in many of their plays which to some extent was to be expected. At one point you felt that the Blues had lost their chance of a vital bonus point when Kearney failed to nudge Nascewa's chip and chase towards the end, but the final score epitomised what this team are now capable of under the most intense pressure.

Only by winning a European Cup can such a reservoir of resolve and self belief be tapped into. Brian O'Driscoll got the praise for being in the right place at the right time, but it was Shane Horgan's subtley in close contact that deserves the most credit.

The early substitution of Shane Jennings was interesting as one would have thought that he would have needed a full game before next week, add in Sean O'Brien's impact to the equation, no doubt it will add to some selection headaches.

The Tullow man helped instigate the massive final push from the Blues that led to the last few scores. O'Brien's value cannot be underestimated -- if it was not for the running and lineout abilities of Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip he would have a starting berth in what is a highly competitive backrow. However, after Saturday's game he definitely has more of shout of being involved for next week than he did beforehand.

Considering his form, Jennings' long lay off and the fact that some of the pressure is now off the Blues after Irish's defeat at the Scarlets, Cheika may well throw him into a backrow that would be hard to stop in Twickenham.

On the other hand Jennings' ability on the floor could prove vital considering the four tries that the Exiles need out of the game. However, as it will be a fast game the lack of match fitness on Jennings' part may mean that O'Brien, perhaps undeservedly so, may only get a cameo role similar to last Saturday.

London Irish certainly did the boys a big favour after not only blowing a big lead against Llanelli but throwing away a vital losing bonus point in the process.

Their heads will be down but in the least they now know what they will have to do come next weekend, needing four tries and a win.

Bar a miracle Leinster will at least finish in one of the two runner-up spots but considering the carrott of a home quarter-final their approach to the next game will not have changed regardless of Irish's latest misfortune.

Leinster will know that the Exiles will throw everything at them, so it will be interesting to see how they approach the game. There are risks to an overly safe game plan, but it should be enthralling to watch.


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