Tuesday 23 January 2018

Bath clash will define our season - Matt O'Connor

Leinster upbeat ahead of Champions Cup tie

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

MATT O'CONNOR insists Leinster's season will be defined by the result of tomorrow's Champions Cup quarter-final against Bath.

The three-time champions have endured plenty of criticism this season, but are Ireland's last remaining representatives as the elite European competition enters the business end.

Leinster came a cropper at this stage 12 months ago, losing heavily to eventual winners Toulon in France, but having earned a home quarter-final at the Aviva Stadium, O'Connor wants his charges to seize the opportunity and book a place in the last four and a probable rematch with the champions in Marseille.

Although he does not believe that this game will define his time in charge, the former Leicester Tigers coach is not backing down from the importance of tomorrow's game.

"It certainly defines the season because it's knockout rugby - you lose, you are out of the competition. We've worked hard through the pool stages and now it's about taking that opportunity," the Australian said.

"When you sit down at the start of the European season, you want to put yourself in a position to be at home in a quarter-final. With a hell of a lot of effort from the whole squad, we've achieved that.

"There is a huge opportunity for us there, you're two games game from a final. The lads understand the character from being there before, it's a golden opportunity for us but you've got to earn it, we're not going to be given anything by Bath."

O'Connor names his team at noon and the Leinster coach will be without second-row Kane Douglas, but has Eoin Reddan is available after passing his concussion protocols.

Mike Ross is a doubt with an ankle injury but is set to be restored to the line-up ahead of Marty Moore if fit, while Jordi Murphy is expected to start in the back-row alongside, with Shane Jennings under huge pressure from Dominic Ryan and Jack Conan for a place on the bench.

In the backline, O'Connor is likely to pair Ian Madigan with Ben Te'o in the centre, with Fergus McFadden the favourite to start in the back three along with Rob Kearney and Luke Fitzgerald, with Zane Kirchner and Dave Kearney battling for the final bench spot.

Connacht, meanwhile, have recalled Robbie Henshaw and Mils Muliaina to their starting line-up for tonight's Challenge Cup quarter-final at Gloucester.

Irish Independent

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