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Hines limbers up for the leaders

It will be a case of familiarity breeding anything but contempt for Nathan Hines when his new club welcomes the high-flying warriors from Glasgow to the RDS.

A little less than two months have passed since some of his prospective temporary foes wore the Scottish tartan together and downed the Wallabies in Murrayfield. That 9-8 victory, the first by the Scots over Australia in nearly three decades, signified another timely step forward for the nation.

Though they failed to follow up that win with another against Argentina the following week, it was a reminder, not that any was needed, that Scotland and their club sides were back.

Of course the progress of Glasgow and Edinburgh in both the Heineken Cup and Magners League competitions has been clear and games against Scottish sides, irrespective of the level, are akin to family feuds -- one-upmanship against your cousins (or Celtic cousins at that) -- but the respect endures.

Glittering

Hines expects another tough encounter tonight and is mindful of the skills on show from what is sure to be a glittering array of local and international talent. Among them could be players of the calibre of Dougie Hall, Kelly Brown, Chris Cusiter, Johnnie Beattie and the Evans brothers -- Max and Thom.

"Glasgow are a typically tough Scottish side and they have that blend of grunt up front and real pace out wide, so we will have to be defensively solid and aggressive in the pack to get the right result", the 33-year-old observed ahead of tonight's encounter.

"Whenever I played against them during my time with Edinburgh there was that keen sense of local rivalry, and now, even though I'm with Leinster, I'm not expecting the standard, intensity or the rivalry to drop.

"If you study their recent results, they are a side who are on the up.

"They're top of the Magners League and they're coming off the back of two dogged back-to-back wins over Edinburgh, so their confidence will be sky high."

An ankle injury sustained in the home Heineken Cup victory over the Scarlets led to Hines' withdrawal from the side that defeated Ulster on St Stephen's Day.

But fighting fit and raring to go by the time of selection for the

Connacht game last weekend, he was set to travel west before Mother Nature struck.

"It was the first game that I can remember in recent memory that was called off and of course it was a little frustrating. But in terms of this weekend's game, it will have no effect on our preparation and if anything we are going to be a little bit fresher.

"I didn't play against Ulster because of injury so the build-up to Christmas was less stressful than normal. For Leann and I, it was our first Christmas with our son Josh and it was a special time. We went to the Whitakers on Christmas Day and it was a fun way to spend the holiday."

Since his summer move from Perpignan, Hines has fitted seamlessly into his new surroundings. Buoyed by a French championship title and subsequent call up to the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa, he's at a stage in his career where he craves tangible success.

"I am very happy with my new environment and I have to say that it is a pleasure working with such a bunch of professional, hard-working guys.

"We are looking forward to the second half of the season and we know that January is the month that can define our ambitions in both the league and in Europe.

"This is when we now start to challenge for honours and the results that have gone before are in the past.

Personally

"Before last year I had only reached a Celtic Cup final with Edinburgh so, for me personally, I want to progress and improve as a player.

"I am pushing myself to be part of a winning team but we'd be foolish to look too far ahead of ourselves. It's a cliche, but we are taking it one game at a time.

"Glasgow are a team of real quality. In the pack we are coming up against a very strong unit while Dan Parks has a deadly boot at out-half. The Evans brothers are flying and their results are improving."

As regards external challenges this week, -- the Arctic conditions that have engulfed the nation of late -- Hines is adamant that the colder, or "fresher" weather as he likes to call it, will have no bearing on Leinster's pre-match build-up.

"The difficulty doesn't lie in training in cold conditions, it lies in us being better prepared."

One thing's for certain, the temperature is set to be at boiling point come 8pm tonight.


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