Leinster eye quarter-final berth
January 14, 2011
Leinster's Jonathan Sexton dives in to score during their victory over Saracens at Wembley © Getty Images
Leinster will hope to book their place in this season's Heineken Cup quarter-finals when they play host to Saracens at the RDS on Saturday.
The Irish province are currently in control of Pool 2 and should rivals Racing Metro or Clermont Auvergne fail to notch a five-point haul in their clash on Friday night, the hosts know a bonus-point win for them would secure their progress. However, Saracens remain a dangerous prospect having beaten Racing last time out, while their controversial 25-23 defeat to Leinster in October will also add some spice to the mix.
Leinster have been in fine form since their last euro outing with three successive victories in the Magners League, while Saracens have also been in the winning habit - most recently against London Irish - and are currently second in the Aviva Premiership table.
Leinster - Player to Watch: Sean O'Brien has just been named as the province's Player of the Month and the back-rower has been in superb form; expect him to carry hard as he deputises for the injured Jamie Heaslip.
Leinster - Team News: There is a settled look to the home side, who boast Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy in midfield and Jonny Sexton and Eoin Reddan at halfback. Leo Cullen skippers the side from the second-row, where he is joined by Nathan Hines.
Saracens - Player to Watch: Owen Farrell has been a key figure for Sarries in recent weeks and enters this clash fresh from putting pen to paper on a new deal with the Premiership club.
Saracens - Team News: Mark McCall has made four changes to his side for the clash, with Ernst Joubert, Rhys Gill and Nils Mordt coming into the side in place of the injured Jacques Burger, Deon Carstens and Alex Goode. Hugh Vyvyan gets a start in the second-row, while Gavin Henson could be set for a European bow after being named on the bench.
Key Battle: Shorn of Heaslip's game-breaking carries, it will be up to the Leinster back-row to reorganise and ensure that they do not let a high-quality Saracens trio get on top.
Trivia: Leinster have qualified for the quarter-finals in seven out of the last nine seasons, while Saracens have reached the last eight on only one previous occasion.
Stats: Leinster's record for a home Heineken Cup fixture is 48,500 for the quarter-final clash with Leicester Tigers at Lansdowne Road in 2005.
"I don't know how he let people know. Was he tweeting or something? That technology is beyond me but I can ask my kids what was happening!" - Leinster boss Joe Schmidt sees the funny side of Jamie Heaslip leaking news of his injury on Twitter.
"We want to win as many games as we can and that is the attitude we will take to Dublin this weekend. Regardless of positions in tables, we want to win." - Saracens skipper Steve Borthwick.
Prediction: Saracens have shown their spirit in recent weeks but Leinster will not drop the ball this close to securing their passage into the knockout stages.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
"The loudest cheer at a rugby game, away from social media gimmicks, pumping music and pyrotechnics will always be for a try." Tom Hamilton on the Twickenham atmosphere
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham