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Conan wins fitness race as Leinster back-row seek to halt Wasps' flyers

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The Leinster back-row is likely to include the fit-again Jack Conan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The Leinster back-row is likely to include the fit-again Jack Conan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

The Leinster back-row is likely to include the fit-again Jack Conan. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Wasps may have splashed the cash for the flash boys out wide but they and Leinster both know, deep down, that their European destiny will be decided by the bash street kids up front.

The preposterously gifted Kurtley Beale, to take just one example, earns an equally preposterous €850,000 a year, as Wasps slowly overtake Toulouse to take another coveted club title - that being the entity which generates the most revenue.

By Monday morning, both could be dumped out of Europe by their comparatively impecunious but titled Irish counterparts.

A penury of which we are so religiously reminded; the IRFU couldn't even rustle up a church gate collection to keep the stubbornly ageing Donnacha Ryan in the country.

Money isn't everything as tomorrow's clash in the Aviva will demonstrate just as forcefully as the last clash here, when abundant Albion were downed by parsimonious Paddy.

That day, familiar national characteristics served to overcome Joe Schmidt's unsubtle and unceasing references to the difference in resources between both sides.

Read more: Danny Boy finally a man - But former teen star Cipriani still a maverick on his second coming

What is also certain is that Leinster have the playing resources to overcome Wasps; for all the glitter that the English house, Leinster have stars too but the key to success will lie in the Irish side replicating the suffocating tactics of the Irish against England at the Aviva.

"This is the stage you pay that extra bit of money to buy your Kurtley Beales and your Danny Ciprianis and so on for," declares coach Dai Young.

"In these really tight games you want them to do something a little bit different, and hope they can win the game for you."

They will need ball though.

"The contact area will be huge," Young adds, "they are very aggressive there.

"We've got to be far more aggressive, far more effective and efficient, otherwise we're playing off slow ball and straight into Leinster's hands.

"It's for us to make sure that we get the right numbers to the breakdown so we get that quick ball.

"If we can get penetration with our ball-carriers and get behind them, it is very difficult for them to slow ball down.

"When we play with intensity and tempo, we are a very hard team to stop. But we know what other teams are going to try to do against us - it's not rocket science!

"The set-piece will also be a challenge, as stats-wise they have the best scrum in Europe.

"So it's about physicality and the way we play the game, they are simple and direct, but we've still got to stop them, so we have to muscle up first and foremost."

The Leinster back-row is likely to include the fit-again Jack Conan when Leo Cullen names his side today, with Josh van der Flier and Seán O'Brien set to man the flanks, edging the in-form Dan Leavy to a still-live option from the bench.

Then, the restored Isa Nacewa and Co, including Joey Carbery at full-back, are liable to thrive; but only if their big boys can first set the tone.

Irish Independent


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