Leinster eye distance from chasing pack
December 17, 2010
Napolioni Nalaga grapples with the Leinster defence last weekend © Getty Images
With a precious bonus-point in tow after last weekend's hard-fought 20-13 loss to Clermont Auvergne, Leinster are out to cement their place at the top of Pool 2 of the Heineken Cup with victory over Les Jaunards at Lansdowne Road in Dublin on Saturday.
The 2009 champions are currently one point clear at the summit of a fiendishly difficult group, with Clermont breathing down their necks and eyeing a rare success on foreign soil. Leinster have a trip to France remaining, against Racing Metro, and will want to have a cushion over their rivals by the time they touch down in the final round of Pool matches.
A crowd of over 40,000 is expected for the game and Leinster will want to reward their fans with something to shout about.
Leinster - Player to Watch: Brian O'Driscoll is fit to start in midfield after his jaw injury, expect the Ireland skipper to make an impact after missing Leinster's two previous Pool matches.
Leinster - Team News: Jamie Heaslip has also been named in the starting line-up after battling an ankle problem this week, although the Ireland No.8 has been bracketed alongside Dominic Ryan in the back-row. Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden and Isa Nacewa continue in the back-three while there are recalls for Eoin Reddan at scrum-half and Cian Healy at loose-head.
Clermont Auvergne - Player to Watch: Sione Lauaki showed flashes of his rampaging best last weekend and will need to get his pack on the front-foot with some big carries if Clermont's backline are to have room to work.
Clermont Auvergne - Team News: Georgian prop Davit Zirakashvili is reinstated at tight-head, while Alexandre Audebert has been bracketed with the injured Alexandre Lapandry at openside. In the backline, Samoan international Gavin Williams is recalled in place of Gonzalo Canale at inside-centre.
Key Battle: Containing Clermont's giant backline is a demanding task and one that Leinster just failed to master last weekend. The midfield will be a war zone.
Trivia: Clermont have never won on Irish soil, including a loss to Leinster in last season's quarter-finals.
Stats: After crossing the whitewash last weekend, Clermont wing Julien Malzieu has scored four tries in his last two games against Leinster.
"I can only ask that they dig deep for this game. It is so important for the players that we have the biggest crowd, as vociferous as possible. They are going to be the extra man on Saturday. They can have a huge effect on the result." - Leinster manager Guy Easterby rallies the fans.
"I think some of our players felt that sometimes, almost there was a lack of respect. I think our players are a little bit aggrieved by that so it will be an interesting old battle next week." - Clermont boss Vern Cotter ups the ante.
Prediction: When Clermont are involved away from home, there tends to be a similar result. Leinster to win a tight one.
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