Monday 18 December 2017

Five reasons why Leinster will beat Bath in Champions Cup

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor during their captain's run. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor during their captain's run. Aviva Stadium, Lansdowne Road, Dublin. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Michael Verney

Leinster welcome a dangerous Bath side to Dublin 4 this weekend in the European Champions Cup with an opportunity at redemption against champions Toulon at stake.

The three in a row seeking French side battered Matt O'Connor's men in the quarter-finals last season and in order to set up a mouth-watering semi-final rematch in Marseilles they must put Bath to the sword tomorrow. have looked at five reasons why the Irish side will be too strong for their English counterparts.

Leinster's Sean O'Brien arrives for squad training. St Gerard's School, Bray, Co. Wicklow.

Ireland pack = Leinster pack

Joe Schmidt's Ireland side were dominant in the scrum and breakdown for large periods of the spring campaign and for Leinster to be able to call on the services of nearly all of those forwards is a massive asset.

Of the eight Irish powerhouses, Leinster contain five in their starting lineup with only the Munster duo of Paul O'Connell and Peter O'Mahony as well as Ulster hooker Rory Best absent.

Bath, while explosive at the back with Jonathan Joseph and George Ford, may be undone by the collective force of men like Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip and Devin Toner who know each other's game inside out and should boss the set plays.

Strength in depth

A quick browse through the Leinster replacement list is a salivating proposition and with the professional game now requiring up to 20 players, the wealth of talent available off the bench should help tip the balance.

Jack McGrath is an able deputy for Cian Healy, Marty Moore is well positioned to fill Mike Ross' massive boots, Eoin Reddan can be a game changer at scrum-half while Gordon D'Arcy has done it all at inside centre.

Mike Ford's Bath simply don't have that type of firepower when the game is in the melting pot and should Leinster need inspiration O'Connor can quickly turn to his substitutes.

31 March 2015; Leinster's Luke Fitzgerald, right, and Ben Te'o during squad training. St Gerard's School, Bray, Co. Wicklow. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Triple H - Hurt, hunger and heart

Leinster's form this season has been patchy to say the least and without the usual comfort of a place in the latter stages of the Pro12 gone, this is their season-defining game.

There must be serious determination within the squad after two disappointing seasons in Europe's elite competition, not getting out of the group in 2013 when reigning champions and falling tamely to eventual champions Toulon 12 months ago.

With men like O'Brien, Heaslip, Rob Kearney all brooding and the likes of Luke Fitzgerald, Ian Madigan and Fergus McFadden keen to impress, it's hard to see the English side having answers to their enormous hunger.


The three-time champions were once considered underachievers on the big stage but with wins in 2009 and 2011-2012, they are huge players in the knock-out stages of the tournament.

Bath, while young and exuberant in many areas, simply cannot call on anything like the experience within O'Connor's side. Leinster are likely to put their stamp on proceedings, particularly in the clutch situations when their leaders will come to the fore.

Key scrums and line-outs should be dominated by the Leinster men, and similar to Ireland's tactics against England in the Aviva, it is likely that there will be well-planned tactics implemented effectively to negate Bath's influence on the game.

Home comforts

Following a sensational Six Nations win and with the World Cup fast approaching, Irish rugby is on the crest of a wave and a huge home support is expected to bolster the Leinster challenge in the Aviva.

Given the fact that it's only 14 days since the miracle of Murrayfield, having the comfort of knowing their surroundings and not losing time and energy travelling is hugely important for the Boys in Blue.

It can't be overstated how important a home draw is in the European competition and were this game to be played in the Recreation Ground, Bath would likely be vying for favouritism. But, it's not and Leinster will justify their 4/7 favourites tag.

Read more: Time for the real Leinster to stand up and show their European pedigree or risk losing aura altogether

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