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Kearney in line for Mission Impossible as Leinster bid to avoid sting of Wasps' twin terrors

Speed thrills and Leinster are fully aware that the sting in Wasps' tail emanates from arguably the deadliest duo operating in European club rugby.

Dave Kearney, who may have the unenviable task of marking either Christian Wade or Tom Varndell on Friday, reeled off a stat Leinster have seemingly absorbed by heart.

"Between them, they've scored 55pc of Wasps' tries this season," he said with a hushed reverence.

It's actually less than 50pc – 20 of 41 touchdowns – but the only numbers Leinster will need to worry about on Friday are the 11 and 14 stitched upon the backs of the winged wonders.

"Yeah, their wingers are lethal finishers in fairness," said Dave Kearney (pictured right). "If Varndell and Wade are given a bit of space, they're tricky customers because they use it.

"It will be physically and mentally exhausting keeping tabs on them. Varndell in particularly is pretty quick and he and Wade are probably the best finishers in the Premiership."

Indeed, Varndell's 72 Premiership tries encompassing nine seasons with Leicester and Wasps leaves him just three short of the record-breaking mark set by Steve Hanley – one that is sure to fall before season's end given his current hot streak.

Remarkably, Wasps, the one-time European heavyweights – four-time English champions and twice Heineken Cup winners in the last decade – almost caved in to bankruptcy and relegation last season.

Their resuscitation this season has been nothing short of remarkable and they stand poised to challenge for a late run to end a yawning four-year absence from Europe's top table.

Their twin terrors on the wings have been central to that charge as the club aim to re-establish themselves under a prospective multi-million-pound takeover by Irish businessman Derek Richardson that could see them return to West London.

"We've been lucky in the fact that we've got a great backs coach in Shane Howarth who came in last year and young guys like Elliot Daly have stepped up to challenge us," appreciated the 26-year-old Varndell, whose transfer to Wasps unwittingly coincided with the club's decline in 2009.

"We're playing with a smile on our faces this season and I think that is demonstrated by the fact that we're scoring so many tries. We're enjoying the ball we're getting. So as long as our boys keep putting it in space, we'll keep putting it down."

While this summer's focus is on the Lions tour, both these players will be seeking to integrate themselves with their national sides, as is Kearney after the briefest flirtation with the inner sanctum when he benched against Wales last season.

"I haven't really thought about it that much at the moment," he admitted. "It's only been recently that I've started to get game time under my belt. Hopefully if I can manage to get my hands on the ball and show a bit of form, that could be good for me.

"Over the past few years, I haven't really got that much European exposure. Of course, with guys switching in and out and leaving, it will hopefully open up a door. There will still be lots of competition there so it's not going to be easy."

Varndell (pictured right) last played for England five years ago and, dogged by questions about his defensive capabilities, he has had to watch as England often preferred to shoehorn full-backs on to the wings.

"It's been a long while since I've played for England," admitted the four-times capped player. "I've got to be playing consistently for Wasps and while this season has gone well, this Friday is a good opportunity for me to show Stuart Lancaster what I can bring to the English team.

"I'm still only 27 so I think I have quite a lot of rugby to play. I was only 18 when I started and I may have made a few mistakes at international level, especially on that first tour to Australia.

"I had a lot to learn and as I've got older, I've developed more of an all-rounded game. I don't see defence as a weakness, even if attack is my greatest strength. I don't see myself as letting the team down in any way."

Kearney would also have critics lining up to attack his defence, so to speak, such that Joe Schmidt may still opt to line up Fergus McFadden on the wing if Eoin O'Malley passes a fitness test today so that he can match up with Gordon D'Arcy.

However, it has been scoring tries, not stopping them, that has ultimately proved to be Leinster's Achilles heel this season, although Kearney hints at signs of life from a side who have been ravaged by injuries for much of the campaign.

"Maybe it's a couple of simple things we need to work on, a few unforced errors that stop us. At the same time, we are creating good opportunities, I just don't think that we're finishing them off that well," added Kearney.

"In our last two games, we've been defending the whole game anyway. And when the ball isn't getting beyond ten, in tight games like that, it's going to be a goal-kicking game."

That may change on Friday in what could be a mouth-watering shootout.

Combative flanker James Haskell has been ruled out of Friday's match with a knee injury.

Irish Independent