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D'Arcy backs his old side to have the form and fitness to deal with Saracens

Champions Cup: Leinster v Saracens, Live BT Spt 3 (Tom, KO 3pm)


Gordon D’Arcy says Leinster will be ready

Gordon D’Arcy says Leinster will be ready

Gordon D’Arcy says Leinster will be ready

Saracens have spoken so much about how they have lined Leinster up from a long way out that you could almost be lulled into a false sense of security and forget that the feeling is very much mutual.

Leinster may not have been as bullish in their public approach but, make no mistake about it, they are gunning for Saracens as they look to avenge last year's Heineken Champions Cup final defeat.

Leo Cullen has expertly managed his resources since rugby's return, and while he had to contend with knockout rugby, Sarries were playing meaningless Premiership games.

Both teams come into tomorrow's last-eight clash on the back of having had very different preparations, but Leinster would surely rather their route as they will feel as if they are much more battle-hardened.

The concern, however, is that what awaits at the Aviva Stadium will be a significant step up from what they faced against Ulster and Munster in recent weeks.

Despite their impending relegation, Saracens are backing themselves to end Leinster's 25-game winning run, and go on and defend their European title.

Gordon D'Arcy has experienced the difficulties of trying to produce a big performance with very little form, and while the former Ireland centre is wary of Saracens' threat, he expects Leinster to be primed for the challenge.

"When Joe Schmidt started, our first four games really didn't go that well, when it all just kind of clicked," D'Arcy recalls. "You look at ways to motivate a group of players and I think that's what Saracens are trying to do.

"They have the luxury of having a two-week run-in to it, whereas Leinster had a final to play.

"Saracens' form doesn't really count because it is nothing. They have been able to line up Leinster from two weeks out and knew the team they were going to pick. You get into the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation - they are out of the Premiership. This is the only tournament that they can actually focus on.

"We do see teams whose domestic form has really nothing to do with their cup form. You see it in France all the time. We see it with UK teams. Even to a certain extent, Munster and Ulster have had good cup runs and not been going that well in the PRO14.

"It is a challenge for Saracens given all the background noise that is going on, especially Owen Farrell being out because that is a massive blow to what they want to do."

Even without the suspended Farrell, Saracens have the power in their pack and pace in their back-line to hurt Leinster, who are not taking them for granted despite their off-field problems.

"That is definitely a concern and that is no disrespect to the teams Leinster have played against," D'Arcy agrees.

"They do need to go up a gear. I think Leinster have improved in every game, but I think to win this game, they will need to improve on the level of their performance in last week's final.

"A lot of our guys have played and are going to be backing up a performance. They weren't shy in getting Johnny (Sexton) on the field last week even though there was a perceived risk of injury.

"So, their whole thing is, 'We have managed players' game-time and now we want them to play.'"

Leinster have not fired on all cylinders post-lockdown, yet they have still managed to win all four games and comfortably defend their PRO14 title.

Their defence has been outstanding while we have seen glimpses of their cutting edge in attack.

It all bodes well for their chances in tomorrow's mouth-watering quarter-final, and D'Arcy expects Leinster's utterly driven mindset to shine through.

"I think when you get to knockout rugby, style and pizzazz is great, and yeah, Leinster played fantastic rugby, but they were also coming into their 24th and 25th win, which does add a subtle pressure," he adds.

"They have dealt with that quite well. They are playing very, very smart cup rugby. I dislike the narrative that you have to play brilliant rugby and win at the same time. I am always about winning.

"The defensive sets that they have been putting in, the back-row in particular, they have been phenomenal in defence and that has really set the tone for how they want to approach the game.

"You don't focus your whole game-plan on stopping (Billy) Vunipola, but you have to give it a certain amount of attention. If you do that, then you take away a major strength of Saracens.

"I like Leinster's really humble approach. They don't get drawn into that toing and froing. Everything has been around winning the PRO14, now they turn their focus to Saracens."

BT Sport is the home of the Heineken Champions Cup with every single match live. Sky customers can watch Leinster v Saracens from 3.0pm on BT Sport 3 with a Sports Extra subscription.