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London calling to focus singularly on return date with the Exiles at Twickenham

Cliché's make it this far because there is more than a grain of truth to them. Leinster will look to make their journey towards back-to-back European Cup titles 'one game at a time'.

Brian O'Driscoll has been too long at this carry on to be drawn into taking a peek around the corner. His focus resides in the here and now. It has to. He has learned that much and so much more.

For the moment, an unpredictable London Irish stand defiantly between the champions and Michael Cheika's first home quarter-final in his five seasons at the club he will leave at the tail of this one.

When London Irish deservedly thieved a shock (12-9) four points from Leinster on day one of the competition, the alarm bells resounded loud and clear. It would take five straight wins, or the next best thing, to send the holders back to the knockout phase.

In hindsight, O'Driscoll started one game before The Exiles came to town, the 30-0 drubbing of Munster in the Magner's League at The RDS in which he skinned Jean de Villiers for a stunning try.

It would not be unkind to suggest the same all-round rustiness that stifled Leinster against Irish more than three months ago was apparent last Saturday against Brive in round five following the winter freeze.

In October, there was an overall, out-of-kilter feel to what they were trying to achieve as they were met head-on by the twin factors of Steffon Armitage's expertise on the floor and the sky-high athleticism of Nick Kennedy in the air.

What makes Armitage such a tough nut to neutralise at the breakdown? "He has a low centre of gravity. He is a pilfering number seven. He is one of the best in the game at what he does in slowing ball up and pinching it," admitted O'Driscoll.

"You just have to make sure when he goes to rucks you get underneath him or you target him before he has the opportunity to kill the ball or steal it from you".

England international Kennedy's foil at the lineout is our own Bob Casey, the club captain, a seven-year veteran of the Guinness Premiership club and the only permanent Irish player in the ranks, a man former broadcaster Bill McLaren might refer to as "19 stones of beef on the hoof".

"They have one of the best lineouts in Europe. They make it very difficult for the opposition, us in this case, on our ball and are almost guaranteed to win their own ball," said O'Driscoll.

"First phase is hugely important for setting up attacks and giving yourself good go-forward. So, I would think it will be a pivotal part of the game".

Largely, Leinster have managed to deal with what many critics saw as two front of the line jumpers in captain Leo Cullen and Scotland international import Nathan Hines by varying their tactics out of touch at the end of John Fogarty's markedly improved throwing.

"Sometimes you have to cut your cloth a little bit and make sure you win lineout ball rather than trying to go for the high risk stuff," stated O'Driscoll.

"We won't necessarily go in more cautious. We want to take a game plan that we feel will win the game whether that, at times, might mean throwing caution to the wind or making sure of first phase possession".

Their varied options at the lineout have been maintained by the replacement of Rocky Elsom with Kevin McLaughlin, a naturally athletic lineout operator at the tail or, at times, the front.

"Kev' has been excellent for us. He has been lucky this year to have a good run without too many injuries, which have hampered him in the past. He has that run of games to show his form. He is a strong lineout option for us, a good ball carrier, a big defender. He has been a huge influence on our game this year".

Outside the heat of the forward battle, O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy will probably have to deal with the serious physical proposition of Samoan chargers in the formidable shape of 16-stones of Seilala Mapusua and his 15-stones partner Elvis Seveali'i.

"You don't play into their strengths. You look to your own strengths. We'll do what we do. When they are coming at us, we will take them by the bootlaces, if needs be, to bring them down. There's not much they can do when they are on the ground," O'Driscoll pointed out.

"It is a case of trying to stifle their attack, their go-forward, while building our defence into attack which is the way we go at every game. It won't be any different for London Irish".

It is no surprise to hear O'Driscoll break his one game at a time focus down into one play at time. It is his attention to detail that has marked him out as the best in the world.


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