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Friday 22 September 2017

Irish ref Rolland to run gauntlet of angry Welsh fans

IRELAND'S World Cup referee Alain Rolland could be in for a hot reception when he takes control of the Scarlets' Heineken Cup clash against Northampton Saints in west Wales on Saturday.

Rolland is still held up as something of a pariah in that part of the world for the way he dealt with Sam Warburton's illegal tackle on Vincent Clerc in their World Cup semi-final in New Zealand.

It ruined Wales' chance of making history and caused consternation to coach Warren Gatland, his players and the supporters of the Welsh Dragon out there and back home. They wanted a head on a plate.

Wales' best whistler, Nigel Owens, could be the key figure in Leinster's march towards their seventh quarter-final in eight years when they tackle Glasgow Warriors at Firhill on Sunday.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has drummed into his players the importance of hitting rucks head-on, keeping on their feet and not staying too long to contest the ball on the floor.

It does seem that opposition coaches look to find their excuses at the breakdown when Leinster 'nick' a victory almost exclusively on the road.

Positive

"It is up to us to paint a positive picture for the referee, make sure we are square-on when going through breakdowns and that we are as accurate as we can be," professed assistant Leinster coach Richie Murphy.

"We can't really worry about what referees think. We just have to play the game the way we see it. We compete hard at the breakdown. It is quite possible that, when you do that, you will give away penalties. Different interpretations in different situations cause problems sometimes. It is an area we will look to tidy up."

While there are officials in Europe who may not be in-tune with Leinster's style, it cannot be said of the Welshman,

"Nigel Owens is the referee," added Murphy.

"He allows a competition at the breakdown, but wants all players to stay on their feet while they are doing that, which is fair enough. We feel we try to play the game in the right way. We are competitive at the breakdown. It is something we pride ourselves on. But, at no time do we set out to be illegal in what we are trying to do."

Owens was there for Leinster's greatest day, the 2009 Heineken Cup final, and he has been a top-class referee since making his international debut in the Ireland-Japan game in Osaka in 2005.

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