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Leinster have to play their way out of a corner

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10 December 2014; Special Olympics Leinster are one of Leinster Rugby's charity partners for 2014/15 and as part of the association they nominated Daniel Dunne as a mascot for the Champions Cup game against Harlequins this Saturday in the Aviva Stadium. Le

10 December 2014; Special Olympics Leinster are one of Leinster Rugby's charity partners for 2014/15 and as part of the association they nominated Daniel Dunne as a mascot for the Champions Cup game against Harlequins this Saturday in the Aviva Stadium. Le

10 December 2014; Special Olympics Leinster are one of Leinster Rugby's charity partners for 2014/15 and as part of the association they nominated Daniel Dunne as a mascot for the Champions Cup game against Harlequins this Saturday in the Aviva Stadium. Le

It is almost all change on the Leinster front.

Most significantly, Luke Fitzgerald will man the number thirteen jersey that he has wanted for so long due to unfortunate calf injury to Gordon D'Arcy.

It doesn't really matter how he has got it, just that he has. This could be the start of Fitzgerald's return to international rugby, a chance to impress the eagle-eyed Joe Schmidt.

First, he must settle into a difficult task in tying down the detail of a position and a system he has not played in.

SWAP

There is also a step-up for wing Zane Kirchner as Dave Kearney is foiled by his hip, and Isaac Boss in a straight swap with Eoin Reddan.

The pack does not go untouched either as Kane Douglas exchanges jerseys with Mike McCarthy and Dominic Ryan makes his way back from injury.

The one line that needs the most improvement, the front row, has been given a second chance to stand up to Harlequins scrum.

This has all the appearances of one of those no-win scenarios for Leinster with Chris Robshaw and Nick Evans neatly out of the way.

That would be to disregard the importance of the points on offer.

This is what they like to refer to as an eight-pointer, in terms of Pool Two, even a ten-pointer, in terms of the overall competition.

The very least Leinster will look for is to end these half-dozen matches as the winner out of a tasty quartet, made more interesting by Wasps' continued interest just behind the front two.

Beyond that, they just do not look like the sort of soldiers that will travel with the confidence of old to a French powerhouse like Toulon, Clermont or Toulouse in the quarter-final.

You take the points whatever way they come in this unforgiving game.

Increasingly, Conor O'Shea and his forwards coach John Kingston will be tempted to turn back to what they must now see as their 'competitive advantage' from last Sunday at The Stoop.

The scrum was a lethal weapon from which they churned out the deadly points which, directly or indirectly, led to Leinster's downfall.

If Leinster make good on their promise there, the back five forwards will feel the benefits with captain Jamie Heaslip able to play the ball from the base rather than shovel it out.

The umbilical connection between Heaslip and scrum-half was broken at The Stoop.

This had a domino effect on those outside with Jimmy Gopperth taking on the responsibility to turn loss-making ball into profit by having a cut.

Leinster: R Kearney; Z Kirchner, L Fitzgerald, I Madigan, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross, D Toner, K Douglas, R Ruddock, D Ryan, J Heaslip (capt). Replacements: B Byrne, M Bent, T Furlong, M McCarthy, J Conan; E Reddan, N Reid, M McGrath.

Verdict: Leinster


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