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Monday 25 September 2017

Leinster on Bowe alert

Cheika's boys are wary of Ospreys' Irish dangerman

Leinster will have to keep all eyes trained on the irrepressible Tommy Bowe if they are to see off the Ospreys in what has become an exciting build-up to the exciting Magners League Grand Final at the RDS this evening.

"If I can use a soccer analogy, he (Bowe) scores -- he scores tries. We know if we give him one inch, he will take it. It is going to be a battle of nerve, in that regard, to make sure we shut down their big threats," Said Cheika.

The Ospreys coach Sean Holley was equally effusive about the man recently announced as Ireland's player of the year.

"Tommy has been a great signing for us. He has really blossomed in the last few seasons. He is the top try scorer in the Magners. But he is much more than that for us," said Holley.

"He is a good character. He is a good team player and a very versatile player. He has adapted to our style very well. He has a lot of strings to his bow, pardon the pun."

As Cheika noted, the problem for Leinster is that Shane Williams, Lee Byrne and James Hook need the same amount of special attention in order to close down the Ospreys' renowned attack.

In truth, the press conference at Bewley's Hotel at lunchtime yesterday held all the whiff of a Mexican stand-off as the Leinster and Ospreys coaches and captains took their time so as not to provide a motivational tool for the opposition.



DISCIPLINE

Cheika has been keen to push the significance of the front-five warfare. He has been hindered in the preparation in this area by the yet unproven fitness of Cian Healy.

Ireland's loose-head has been suffering from a stomach bug for more than a week, thus allowing the experienced duo of Stan Wright and CJ van der Linde to start in the front row.

A decision will be made close to the start on whether Healy will man the replacements bench as the reserve frontrower or if Mike Ross will deputise.

Cheika has otherwise selected the same team which saw off Munster 16-6 in the semi-final two weeks ago with Stan Wright switching to loose-head to accommodate Van der Linde.

"This is what all the teams play for. We have been very disciplined. We are going to have to be at our absolute best to win it. That is what we have been working towards all year. That is what our supporters have wanted," issued Cheika.

Leinster captain Shane Jennings concurred with Ryan Jones' assessment that "the key is not to make too many mistakes and to control what we can".

Jennings went further: "Past games and past records don't stand for much in a one-off game like this. There has been a long lead up to it. I think the teams are raring to go.

"Success leads on to bigger and better things. Over the last few seasons, we've done well in that department, but if we fall short tomorrow, we've won nothing.

"If you come first in the league and do well in the semi-final, it doesn't really count for much. That is the beauty of it. The players and fans, alike, are mad keen to get the game going."

The former British and Irish Lions No8 eight Jones has been around the game long enough not to be too concerned about the fact that the Ospreys have won just once in seven seasons in Dublin, and never in three seasons at The RDS.

"It is one of those things; it will have no bearing on what will happen. It is a great place to play. The fans are superb. It is very vocal. They appreciate their rugby. It is somewhere we are looking forward to playing as finalists.

"It will be an advantage (for Leinster). It is something we have to overcome early doors; we can't afford to dwell on it. We have to cater for that and get on with it.

"You don't play at this level with the calibre of guys you are fortunate have if you can't cope with that environment. There is a lot of experience there. They know how to deal with it."

They certainly should, as the Welsh will be able to call on eight British and Irish Lions among the 15 inter-nationals, with All Blacks Jerry Collins and Marty Holah signed to give them the edge in matches like these.

Leinster: R Kearney; S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; S Wright, J Fogarty, CJ van der Linde, N Hines, M O'Kelly, K McLaughlin, S Jennings (capt), J Heaslip.

The Ospreys: L Byrne; T Bowe, A Bishop, J Hook, S Williams; D Biggar, M Phillips; P James, H Bennett, A Jones, A-W Jones, J Thomas, J Collins, M Holah, R Jones (capt).

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