Thursday 12 December 2019

O'Brien wary of 'dangerous' Wasps

Jamie Heaslip points the way during Leinster training in UCD (SPORTSFILE)
Jamie Heaslip points the way during Leinster training in UCD (SPORTSFILE)
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Last weekend's impressive win over Bath ensured that Leinster didn't succumb to two pool stage defeats to the English side, and tomorrow, they face a similar task against Wasps.

Unlike Bath, however, Wasps harbour much more realistic ambitions of advancing to the quarter-final and they will fancy their chances of doing so at home.

Wasps lie in sixth position of the Premiership table but crucially, they are just a point behind pool leaders Toulon.

A last-minute try at the Stade Felix Mayol last time out denied Wasps a famous victory over Toulon, and Sean O'Brien is only too aware of the threat that they pose, having been humbled by them at the RDS earlier in the campaign.

Building on recent good performances will be the priority for Leo Cullen and his side, but as O'Brien pointed out, they will also be eager to make amends for their poor showing against Wasps back in November.

"They were unlucky (against Toulon)," O'Brien admitted.

"They are a very dangerous side. They have been in good form. And yeah, they were unlucky. We want to make sure we do ourselves justice, not like the last time we played them.

"We have turned a corner in terms of the fact we have been playing a lot better in recent weeks. We want to maintain what we have done, and then do things a little bit better.

"We have made it hard for ourselves in the last 20 minutes of games, as we did at the weekend (against Bath), but the younger lads who have come in, they have done a great job."

There has been plenty for newly appointed England coach Eddie Jones to admire from Wasps' play in Europe this season but O'Brien doesn't expect the national side to adopt a similar expansive type of game-plan under the Australian.

"No, I don't think the Wasps team as such is going to be based around what England want to try and achieve," the Tullow native maintained.

"You look at all the key players that Wasps have at the minute, (Charles) Piutau and these lads, they're not going to be involved with England.

"It's a different dynamic so I don't think England will be looking towards them or towards what way they're playing and kick on in the Six Nations.

"I think Eddie Jones will have his own ideas of what he wants to do and what squad he wants to pick, and I'm sure there will be a few Wasps players on it but Saracens are flying obviously as well."

For Eoin Reddan, tomorrow is a chance to go back to the club that he spent four successful seasons with, and although Wasps now play their home games in Coventry, he is relishing the opportunity to see some familiar faces.

"I've a massive connection to them," Reddan said.

"The players have changed, largely. There's a few guys there but, for me, it was a sea-change in my mentality and a breath of fresh air. It was much-needed for me.

"They were very good to me when I went and were very good in letting me go home. I was welcomed with open arms and a pat on the back on the way out.

"If I was watching them I'd be hoping they win unless I'm competing directly against them.

"I know a few of the lads still involved in the club. Lawrence (Dallaglio) is on the board there as well, so I'd be hoping they do well."

For 80 minutes at least, Reddan will put all sentiment to one side as Leinster look to finish a disappointing European campaign on a high.

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