O'Driscoll on alert as 'smart' Easterby looks to slay Leinster
Three home-grown coaches will seek to devastate the European dreams of the Irish provinces as the bell tolls for a crunch weekend in the Heineken Cup.
Simon Easterby (Scarlets), Conor O'Shea (Harlequins) and Michael Bradley (Edinburgh) are all gearing up for pivotal clashes that will go a long way to determining the future health of the Irish sides' challenges.
Back-to-back European champions Leinster know they can't afford any slip-up this afternoon when they travel to Wales to face Scarlets, whose heavy defeat to Clermont last weekend was skewed by a red card to Morgan Stoddart.
Leinster are boosted by the return of centre Gordon D'Arcy, whose opposite number Jon Davies misses out. "They've a good coach in Simon Easterby," says Brian O'Driscoll.
"I played a lot of times with him and he was always a very smart player. He's done his apprenticeship as an assistant coach and forwards coach the last number of years and I'm sure he has great ideas as to how he wants his team to play."
Later this evening, Connacht host Harlequins in a repeat of the clash that saw the westerners dump the English side out of the competition last season.
Frantic organisers have extended the capacity of the Galway Sportsground to just beyond 8,000 as Eric Elwood's men seek to build on their first ever away win in the Heineken Cup against Zebre in Italy.
"They are a quality side," says Elwood. "But we would fancy anyone at home and in the Heineken we have proved it already against them."
It is far from a sell-out at Thomond Park as Munster seek the victory against Edinburgh that will keep their qualification hopes alive after last week's dismal defeat to Racing Metro.
They must do so without talisman Ronan O'Gara, for whom Ian Keatley deputises, but fit-again Donncha O'Callaghan returns to partner Paul O'Connell in the second-row. "They're trying to win every game," says coach Rob Penney. "It's not through lack of effort. Sometimes it just doesn't happen for you."