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Sunday 11 December 2016

Blues have to play game or suffer at Recreation Grounds

Devin Toner
Devin Toner

Leinster will have to make do without possible starter Jack Conan for the next eight to ten weeks.

The back row forward broke his foot in training this week to heap frustration upon frustration just when Leinster need all hands on deck for Bath in The Champions Cup.

This comes in tandem with the news that Seán O'Brien, Richardt Strauss and Mike McCarthy have been all but ruled out as they continue the return-to-play process from their concussions.

However, Rhys Ruddock's wrist has healed well enough to be considered as a more than adequate replacement for Conan.

The highly influential quartet of Rob Kearney, Luke Fitzgerald, Ben Te'o and Isa Nacewa were all still in the shake-up overnight as the medical staff played the waiting game to see how they recovered from training.

This is just as well given the shots Bath's George Ford can fire with the sharpshooters outside him.

The problem for Leinster is that they have to limit the amount and the quality of ball fed to Bath's fast men.

It will all start up front where Leinster's front five have to make a better impression on Bath than they did on Wasps.

The set-piece is a cornerstone of their plan.

Second row Devin Toner will have to get his head around the challenge of powering up the scrum and lineout.

There has been another week in which to shed those Ireland calls and systems and reinforce Leinster's.

"It is a challenge and there is stuff to get our heads around, switching from lineout system to another system, particularly as forwards you've to get your head around that," said Toner.

"Mainly it's just the calls and the different shape, plays and stuff.

"A lot of us are very used to it these days coming in and out of camp all the time.

"I don't see it as an issue to be honest."

That didn't seem to be the issue last Sunday against a reputationally fierce Wasps scrum.

The same could not be said for a lineout in which neither Bradley Davies or Joe Launchbury are world-beaters.

The open and often wild Recreation Ground can be quite heavy underfoot.

Bath's plans to redevelop have been dogged by planning in one of the most beautiful cities in England.

There is a strange irony here in that coach Mike Ford has devised the most exciting style of rugby in The Premiership on a surface not fit for that purpose.

"The changing rooms are tiny," said the 6'10" lock.

"It's a great city to go and a great place to go and play.

"I suppose, if we go and play our game, we'll be alright."

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