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Five reasons why Leinster badly need five points against Castres

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Matt O'Connor

Matt O'Connor

Brian O'Driscoll

Brian O'Driscoll

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Matt O'Connor

There could be no Irish representative in the European quarter-finals for the first time since 1998 by the close of sixth round business on Sunday week. This is the worst case scenario.

The best is that Leinster, for the eleventh time in fourteen years, and Munster, for an incredible 16th time in 17 years, will make their customary visit to the knockout phase of the Champions Cup.

1. CONSISTENCY

In terms of Leinster, they have been dragged down into a three-rat-race with English Premiership clubs Harlequins and Wasps, who they will be sent to Coventry to confront on Saturday week.

The disquiet outside the club environment over anything from the use of Ian Madigan to the style of play employed has been tempered by signs of form.

Leinster need to wrestle five points away from Castres to prove they are moving in the right direction.

2. THE PRO12 LEAGUE

The absence of any Irish representative or any PRO12 club in the final eight would be a body blow to the guts of the Guinness League, seeing as though Scarlets are almost out and Ulster are already gone from Pool Three.

Glasgow Warriors are a long-shot for survival from Pool Four and The Ospreys are also-rans in Pool Five. The question will come sooner rather than later over whether the PRO12 is a worthy League adversary to The Premiership and the Top-14. Can it survive the cut and thrust of building a brand?

 

3. THE ENGLISH AND FRENCH

This all comes at a time when the advent of a strong television presence on BT Sport, based around the induction of former players, like Lawrence Dallaglio, and even our own Brian O'Driscoll (above), for European concern, to advertise the virtues of the English game.

The fact England has brought home the last two U20 World Cups and have been to five of the seven finals speaks to the increasing talent pool in The Premiership.

The product there is improving due to the underlying strength in domestic numbers, fed through by the professional clubs and Age-Grade success.

This is matched by a concurrent drive in spending illustrated here by JJ Hanrahan's export.

4. FINANCIAL REALITY

It is simply unrealistic to survey the European rugby scene and make a claim with any degree of confidence about the PRO12's place in it.

The landscape of the professional game is changing. There is understandable fear that those limited by the profit and loss accounts of the IRFU will be unable to stay the pace.

It is consistently preached that once you standstill on the field, you get left behind.

The same rule applies along the financial arm of the club.

The apparent engagement with private wealthy individuals to increase Leinster's competitiveness in signing foreign players and resigning Jonathan Sexton is needed.

5. HARLEQUINS v WASPS

The qualification format for the quarter-finals out of Pool Two is not favourable for Leinster.

Should two clubs end level on points after six rounds, Harlequins will go through because they hold an overall aggregate edge on Leinster of (37-32).

Matt O'Connor's men do hold the slight advantage of getting to lay down a marker against Castres just before Harlequins and Wasps get down to it at The Stoop.


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