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D'Arcy: Ulster have a hard centre

SOMETIMES it is easier to see what is going on when you are looking on. That will be the position of Gordon D'Arcy when Leinster take to Ravenhill without him tonight.

The Wexfordman will take a purely observational view on Leinster's bid to maintain their impressive record against Ulster, losing just once in their last 16 matches against Ulster.

While D'Arcy takes a back seat, the worthy Fergus McFadden will join Brian O'Driscoll in the centre of a battle against Ulster's on-song duo Paddy Wallace and Darren Cave.

"Paddy is the distributor and he's carrying very well as well, so he's double-jobbing there a little.


"Darren's game is his running lines and his offloads. They complement each other very well," he said.

There are individual battles that must be won all over the park for either province to lay down a marker for what, potentially, could be the Heineken Cup final next month.

"Everyone talks about rugby in such a complex manner. It all comes back to winning your primary possession at set-piece and creating quick ruck ball. It is going to be difficult to stop whoever can do that," reflected D'Arcy.

"No matter which way you chop this up, whoever wins the contact, the physical edge on the gain line, and keeps their discipline will do well.

"If we get stopped at the lineout and scrums and beaten at ruck time, I would be very surprised if we come out with a win."

Given this, it is no surprise that Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has included his first choice front five. Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen and Brad Thorn provide experience and grit.

All Black Thorn doesn't waste an ounce of energy chasing lost causes, especially at the ruck, when he can reserve it for when it is really needed.


He only throws his body into contact when he knows it can make an impact on what is happening in front of him. This is the greatest value of experience.

Leinster will have to meet Ulster on the gain line and drive them back off it because Ulster can generate points quickly on the front-foot.

"You can't put a price on what Ruan Pienaar did for Ulster early in the game against Munster. It went a long way towards deciding that Heineken Cup quarter-final," added D'Arcy.

The message is clear. Leinster must start as they mean to continue, keep their discipline and keep Ulster on the back-foot. This will be more than half the battle.