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League takes centre stage


Leinster manager Guy Easterby

Leinster manager Guy Easterby

Leinster manager Guy Easterby

ON the matter of potentially playing a Pro12 League final at the Aviva Stadium, Guy Easterby has agreed that Leinster "could do it".

The team manager went to great pains to point out how Leinster are not even guaranteed a home semi-final at the RDS, never mind a grand final against either Ulster or Munster at the national stadium.

"We need to get into the semi-finals. We need to get a home semi-final. That is our focus," he said.

"We could easily be coming up against an Irish side in a semi-final, if we get to it. That is going to be a massive game, if that is the case.

"You can't really be looking beyond that."

However, the very absence of Heineken Cup rugby in May does shine a different light on Leinster defending their league title. The same goes for Ulster. Not so much Munster.

"We're sitting at the top of the table with three games to go. We're in a good place. But we need to make sure we're right on top of our game this week to make sure that's still the case after Friday night," said Easterby about the visit of Benetton Treviso to the RDS.

The way is clear for coach Matt O'Connor to call on all the international expertise at his disposal now that the European dimension has been removed.

There is every chance he will have to do without Luke Fitzgerald with an abdominal injury that simply won't go away, putting the PRO12 play-offs in doubt and maybe even Ireland's two Tests in Argentina.


"It is about managing it and I think we're going to look at it again in the summer and see if there are any interventions needed to put it right long-term," he said.

"Unfortunately, it is a niggly one that keeps improving and regressing at times as well. It is tough on him. He still remains positive after all the setbacks."

Easterby was also keen to illustrate Leinster's resistance to players moving freely between the provinces when the new Performance Director, reported to be Australian David Nucifora, takes his seat at Lansdowne Road.

"The talk about moving people, we've used 50 players this year. If you move people about and there's meritocracy involved I just don't think it's going to work," he said.

"The culture of Irish rugby is people are very within their own province, and that's a real positive. If you ask Matt O'Connor, he thinks that's one of the biggest positives of Irish rugby, that allegiance to your own province. Not many people will make the move between provinces.

"It is very important we keep our best players in Leinster and we want to keep an environment where the players want to be here. That's what we're aiming at.

"If there are conversations to be had with the new Performance Director, then we'll have those conversations. But we've got a lot of facts that we can put on the table in terms of how we need to manage our players and our season.

"For us to be told that we need to move players around is going to be very difficult to take," he said.