Leinster have eyes on another final
May 13, 2011
Brian O'Driscoll will play his 150th game for Leinster this weekend © Getty Images
With a Heineken Cup Final date already booked, Leinster take on Ulster at the RDS on Friday with a spot in the decider of the Magners League on the line.
Joe Schmidt's side are arguably the form side in Europe and have unfinished business in the domestic play-offs after the Ospreys stole the title from under their nose in the inaugural Grand Final last season.
Ulster have made big strides under Brian McLaughlin and will give everything they have after their fledgling Heineken Cup campaign was chopped down by Northampton at the quarter-final stage. They will need to overcome some jitters against Irish opposition however, having only won a single game against their provincial rivals this season.
Leinster finished the regular season in second, 13 points behind runaway leaders Munster, while Ulster beat the Ospreys to third spot, finishing four points clear of the Welsh region after last weekend's victory over the Dragons.
Leinster - Player to Watch: Isaac Boss has beaten Eoin Reddan to the scrum-half berth and with the Heineken Cup finale just around the corner a big performance here, against his former province, would be a boost to his hopes of a start in Cardiff.
Leinster - Team News: Centre Brian O'Driscoll will make his 150th Leinster appearance and is paired with Gordon D'Arcy. Jonathan Sexton partners Boss at halfback while Shane Jennings has been preferred to Kevin McLaughlin for a spot in the back-row. The former Leicester man starts at openside, with Sean O'Brien at blindside and Jamie Heaslip at No.8.
Ulster - Player to Watch: Ruan Pienaar was this week named Magners League Player of the Season and the Springbok scrum-half has been at the heart of Ulster's efforts on both fronts. Expect another influential display.
Ulster - Team News: With Dan Tuohy ruled out with a hamstring injury, Tim Barker slots into the second-row. Ian Humphreys partners Pienaar at halfback while Chris Henry joins South African duo Pedrie Wannenburg and Robbie Diack in the back-row.
Key Battle: The back-row contest will be titanic. Ulster's loose-trio have plenty of grit and determination to go on with, but may just lose out to a Leinster selection boasting outstanding pace and power, as well as the foraging of Jennings.
Trivia: Last year's Grand Final loss to the Ospreys is the only time that Leinster have been beaten in the league at the RDS since September 2008.
Stats: Ulster have won eight of their last nine games, but their solitary defeat did come at the RDS - 34-26 back in April.
"They have given us the hurry-up in both games, although the scoreline might not have reflected that. We need to be on our game, this is the knock-out phase now, whereas before it was Magners League round-robin and there were Heineken Cup games going on around that time as well." - Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek.
"It's a one-off game and, on the day, I think if Ulster get in the right place, and get the physicality up, then we're definitely in with a chance. To have any sort of chance against Leinster you need to combat them physically for those first 20-30 minutes." - Ulster prop Tom Court.
Prediction: Leinster have the bit between their teeth and will not pass up the chance to play in a second final in as many weeks.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"Like the Treaty of Versailles, despite all the promises, the new Participation Agreement is certainly not the final solution." John Taylor writes
"We know where we are going and we know where we want to get but how long that will take is anybody's guess." David Humphreys on his plans for Gloucester
Jim Mallinder and Justin Burnell were sat on the same top table, but in different circumstances. Tom Hamilton reports on the Aviva Premiership season launch
Tom Hamilton reports back from the launch of the Guinness PRO12 where there is a renewed sense of optimism with all of the off-field changes to the league