| 7.2°C Dublin

Squad rivalry keeps O'Driscoll pushing limits

Leinster will give Irish internationals Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D'Arcy every opportunity to recover from their respective ankle and calf injuries before naming their side to face Racing Metro 92 in Paris tomorrow evening.

Leinster need a win to guarantee a home draw in the quarter-finals and forwards coach Jono Gibbes has stressed that Leinster's own high standards can drive them into a winning position.

"Internally the pressure is never off," declared the influential Gibbes. "Talking about the loose-forward situation highlights that -- you can see the competition that's now there, with Sean O'Brien playing so well in Jamie Heaslip's absence last week.

"Whoever plays there knows that they're going to go hard and play for keeps. There's a pressure there internally for selection. And a pressure internally for the standards we're trying to attain.

"Yeah, Saracens was positive, but by no means perfect. The pressure's on in terms of the place we're going to, the size of the people we're coming up against. There's the challenges of playing at night.

"We don't feel like there's any pressure off us, we're going there to go after a result because of the high standards we set for ourselves and the unique factors presented by playing in France."

Even captain Brian O'Driscoll has highlighted the intensity of the competition for places within Leinster as being a motivating factor behind his thinking as he contemplates his future after the World Cup.

For the first time in his career, he admits to being genuinely concerned that were he to lose his place through injury, he may struggle to get back into the team, such has been the impact of Leinster's young tyros like Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden.

"I think that's the great thing, this season, that there's been such great competition for places throughout the backline," said O'Driscoll.

"Jono mentioned the back-row. I could list a number of people, but specifically in the centre with Eoin O'Malley, Fergus, myself and Gordon D'Arcy (right)

"We've been fighting it out and any time that someone has not been available or been injured, another guy has come in and deputised extremely well.

"That's what's keeping everyone on their toes and making sure every time they get the jersey, to put in a good performance and remind Joe and Jono to pick them for the next game.

"You don't want to sit out any games, because you give someone else an opportunity. But that's exactly where we want to be. We want to build that squad mentality so guys come in seamlessly and do a great job. It gets the best out of everyone.

"From my own personal point of view, I love the competition. It makes you hungry coming into work every day, hungry to make sure you're bringing the 'A' game.

"I'd say I'm more nervous about keeping my place than at any time before. The great thing about Joe is that he doesn't pick on reputation, he picks on form -- and I think that's the right way to go about it.

"From a squad mentality it means that guys, irrespective of their experience, if they're playing well will be in his thoughts for selection. And that's the way you need to have it.

"Reputation doesn't count for anything if you're not producing 10 years down the track. I'm definitely enjoying training, but I'm conscious I need to produce every time I'm out on the training pitch or on the field because I've seen the performances that Eoin and Fergus have been putting in this season.


"It's great we're able to push one another and as much as they're pushing us, we're pushing them too."

Despite the young guns stealing much of his thunder, O'Driscoll, who celebrates his 32nd birthday tomorrow ahead of the Heineken Cup clash, maintains that he is happy with his form as the Six Nations hovers into view.

"I was pleased with aspects of my game, there's always tweaking to be done.

"I've never seen anyone play the perfect game, so you're constantly trying to look at the errors you've made in a game and trying to put them right the following week and that's what I've done this week.

"We're getting there and I'm feeling fresh, but I haven't really hazarded that much of a thought to the Six Nations.

"There's been so much great rugby to be played over the last month and I've really enjoyed it.

"You focus on that and when Friday's over, you'll be able to switch across to the international stuff."

Irish Independent