Leinster need to tick all boxes to keep Edinburgh at bay

Home semi-final at stake for Irish province who are without Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Heaslip

Leinster’s Rob Kearney returns to the Leinster side after injury for their Pro12 game against Edinburgh at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

Leinster’s Rob Kearney returns to the Leinster side after injury for their Pro12 game against Edinburgh at the RDS. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho.

 

Leinster v Edinburgh, RDS, Friday, 7,35pm (TG4)

The absence of Irish internationals Jonathan Sexton and Jamie Heaslip was a primary topic Leinster coach Leo Cullen was invited to discuss as his side look to accelerate towards the playoffs in the Guinness Pro12.

Cullen explained: “Jonathan Sexton has had a couple of niggles so we’re trying to manage that and Jamie Heaslip has had a heavy workload. We’re trying to manage what is best for the group.”

Garry Ringrose is another absentee due to a heavy playing schedule of late.

Irish internationals

The province welcome back a couple of injured Irish internationals in fullback Rob Kearney and wing Luke Fitzgerald to a Leinster team that will be captained by Rhys Ruddock.

Noel Reid comes in to partner the consistently excellent Ben Te’o in the centre while Ian Madigan and Luke McGrath are paired at halfback. Ross Molony has maximised the opportunities he’s been given this season. He’s excelled in every facet of the game while particularly impressive in stealing opposition lineout ball.

Cullen has opted to partner him with Mick Kearney with Devin Toner among the replacements. It’s a strong bench.

Edinburgh make four changes from the side that beat Zebre 29-0 a fortnight ago. Centre Chris Dean and scrumhalf Sam Hildago-Clyne come into the backline, while Scotland international openside John Hardie returns. James Ritchie is named on the other side of the backrow.

Edinburgh, who lie seventh in the table and are still fighting for a Champions Cup place next season, have won three of their last four matches in the league. Their only defeat in that time, against Connacht. It’s four and a half years since Leinster last lost at home to a Scottish side.

They do possess an excellent set piece, the focal point of which is their international frontrow of Alasdair Dickinson, captain Ross Ford and WP Nel.

Leinster captain Ruddock admitted: “They’ve a good scrum, with an international frontrow, who were very destructive at international level, especially in this Six Nations.

“We have a plan in place to deal with them at scrum time but also the maul. They have become more of a mauling team this year. They’re mindset is to take you on up front. It is something that we are ready.”

Particularly dangerous

It was also pointed out that the visitors possess plenty of pace across the three-quarter line with winger Damien Hoyland a particularly dangerous broken field runner.

An important factor in combatting that threat will be the work of the Irish province’s defence coach, Kurt McQuilkin. Leinster have the best record in the league in that respect.

Cullen said of his former team-mate: “Kurt’s unbelievably passionate about Leinster. When I joined the squad first, he was the captain. He did some coaching with me, I remember even on an Irish under-19s trip to Argentina back in 1997. Kurt was involved back then.

“I’ve a huge amount of respect for the work that he does and the manner in which he goes about his business day to day. He’s been a great addition to the group.”

It’s their attack that Leinster have shipped the most criticism, their failure to finish opportunities created.

Edinburgh will make the home side work hard up front and Leinster need to win the collisions, be sharp and accurate at the breakdown, play with a high tempo and add a little nuance to their back play. If they can run through that checklist for then they’ll be a step closer to that home semi-final.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Te’o, N Reid, L Fitzgerald; I Madigan, L McGrath; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; M Kearney, R Molony; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Murphy. Replacements: S Cronin, P Dooley, T Furlong, D Toner, D Ryan, E Reddan, C Marsh, D Kearney.

EDINBURGH: B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, C Dean, P Burleigh, T Brown; J Tovey, S Hildago-Clyne; A Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel; A Bresler, B Toolis; J Ritchie, J Hardie, C du Preez. Replacements: S McNally, R Sutherland, J Andress, B Toolis, M Bradbury, H Watson, S Kennedy, M Allen.

Referee: M Mitrea (Italy).

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