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This is a war zone: cheika

Leinster coach Michael Cheika has issued a call to arms for his players ahead of their crucial home date with Brive in the Heineken Cup at The RDS this evening.

"We've got up off the ropes," he said.

"We got ourselves into trouble by losing that first game (to London Irish) of the European Cup. We are still right in the middle of that war zone. We have to show the desperation we have to get out of our Pool," he said.

Unsurprisingly, Cheika has brought back Ireland internationals Jonathan Sexton and Shane Jennings after six and 13 weeks, respectively, in what is a full-strength Leinster side, except for the long-term absence of Luke Fitzgerald and the placement of CJ van der Linde, back from a calf strain, on the bench.

Shane Horgan will become the first Leinster player to reach the 75 Heineken Cup-cap landmark. Sexton and prop Cian Healy will make their 50th appearances for the province in all competitions.

The weather ruled out the return of Sexton and Jennings in the Magner's League last week: "It is not optimum for most of the guys. For some, it is probably not a bid thing to get a couple of games off in the middle of what is a tough season," continued Cheika.



PLANNING

"It is what it is. Our business is about planning for that, making sure that the players are in the best possible condition to get a performance this Saturday that will really reflect the situation we are in".

For their part, Brive have confounded most of the critics by bringing a strong selection to Dublin, even though they are pointless in the Pool.

Coach Ugo Mola wants to prolong a recent run of good form. He has not taken the easy option to give his frontline players a night off.

Mola has included former Connacht lock Damien Browne in his side beside high-profile signings along the three-quarter line in England's Jamie Noon, France's Nicolas Jeanjean and Argentina's Horacio Agulla in what is a clear indication that the French mean business.

The forward pack will include Browne, England World Cup winner Steve Thompson and Wales international Alix Popham with excellent cover off the bench from England scrum-half Shaun Perry, Pat Barnard and another former Connacht forward in Christian Short.

"The team we are preparing to play this time out is a totally different animal. They have had a coaching change. They've become extremely competitive in the Top-14 (French championship). They have beaten Perpignan and Toulouse in the last three or four weeks," warned Cheika.

"They are much more aggressive, strong in the maul and in the scrum. It is going to be a big challenge for us physically, especially without having played in the last couple of weeks".

As always, the leaders, like captain Leo Cullen, Nathan Hines, Eoin Reddan, Sexton, Rob Kearney and Brian O'Driscoll will have to set the tone right from the start.

The Scarlets could do their Magners League counterparts Leinster a huge favour by completing a home-and-away double over London Irish, captained by Ireland's Bob Casey, at Parc Y Scarlets tomorrow afternoon.

The Exiles will be backboned by five England squad members in the Armitage brothers, full-back Delon and openside Steffon, scrum-half Paul Hodgson, lock Nick Kennedy and hooker David Paice. "In the reverse fixture last October both teams played with flair and ambition and I'm sure this match will be similar," issued London Irish coach Toby Booth.

"Our Heineken Cup pool has certainly lived up to its advance billing with all our matches to date proving to be competitive and exciting for our supporters.

"We are currently well placed to progress to the next stage of this great tournament and will be going all out to establish a winning momentum on Sunday," Booth concluded.

The picture will become clearer by Sunday afternoon as to what exactly Leinster will require against London Irish at Twickenham next Saturday in order to qualify for the quarter-finals.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, J Fogarty, S Wright, L Cullen (capt), N Hines, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

BRIVE: S Spedding; N Jeanjean, J Noon, L Mackay, H Agulla; L Orquera, J-B Pejoine; P Henn, S Thompson, P Idieder, R Uys, D Browne, A Popham, F Domingo, A Claassen.

LEINSTER v BRIVE, Live Sky Sports 1, (Tonight, KO 6.0)


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