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Friday 9 December 2016

Leinster will target Bath scrum in bid to stifle dangerous backline

Matt O'Connor
Matt O'Connor

The wizards of back play can do little or nothing without the hard work of their co al carriers.

Bath have the conjurer in George Ford; Leinster have the front row destroyers. It is at source where Leinster will plan to stifle Bath, take their platform out from under their feet.

At least, that is what makes most sense with tight-heads David Wilson (neck) and Henry Thomas (shoulder) the victims of injury.

Leinster will have a set of six in Cian Healy, Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Richardt Strauss, Martin Moore and either Mike Ross or Tadhg Furlong to turn a Bath strength last month into an unforeseen weakness.

"They are the most rewarded scrum in The Premiership, penalty-wise," said Leinster coach Matt O'Connor.

"They will have a definite plan in how they are going to attack our scrum.

"It's just up to us to make sure we can counteract that and try and get dominance."

The improved conditioning and form of Ross through the Six Nations was best shown in how he kept England's Joe Marler under control and in how he finished out in Murrayfield.

"He is certainly in the thinking," said O'Connor. "I thought he was very good through the Six Nations. The scrum wasn't a massive focal point in the first-half while Rossy was on there against Scotland.

"It wasn't as big an issue as it was away against Harlequins. But, with that in mind, I thought Rossy created a lot of positive pictures against Scotland. That will be a factor for sure."

The overall effectiveness of the Leinster forwards on the gain line will determine which has fast, well-oiled go-forward.

"We need to look after the ball. We need to have possession. We need to play in the right areas," said O'Connor.

"The set-piece in Europe is a massive focal point.

"We have to make sure that we get dominance in those exchanges, so that we can play in the right areas."

For all of their menace up front, Bath are seen as a quick-firing attacking force with former London Irish backs Jonathan Joseph, Anthony Watson and Tom Homer, full-back Luke Arscott and wings Matt Banahan, Horacio Agulla and Semesa Rokoduguni all offering threat.

"I think those guys are benefitting from what George Ford and (Kyle) Eastmond have been creating on the inside," said O'Connor.

"They tie up a lot of bodies and defensive focus. That provides spaces on the edge.

"They are very clinical in getting ball out there. That was the real thing the rugby world saw from George Ford was opening up England's game to the edges.

"That's where he has been delivering at Bath and I suppose that's why their wingers and back three are getting in as much as they are."

If Leinster can compromise Bath's ball from set-piece scrum and lineout and at the breakdown, they will be well on their way.

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