herald

Sunday 11 December 2016

Pride will have to be enough

Leinster must win to keep up their feel-good factor

Leinster's Luke McGrath fires a few balls during squad training at Donnybrook Stadium this week (SPORTSFILE)
Leinster's Luke McGrath fires a few balls during squad training at Donnybrook Stadium this week (SPORTSFILE)

There is the greed to win. It is called professionalism

Then, there is the need to entertain. It is called cultural.

These two go hand-in-hand at Leinster where recent bad news on the transfer front has been countered by finding form in front of demanding, some would say spoiled fans.

Leinster are out of Europe.

But, they are not out of reason enough to make Bath's experience at the RDS a living hell for 80 minutes and more.

This would not be a good time to let all the progress of the past week stall or withdraw into recession.

Leo Cullen needs to remind those outside of this island that Leinster is still relevant, if not by making the quarter-finals, then by having a big influence on who does.

"Even though this is a dead rubber you cherish these matches, these quality teams coming and playing in your back yard," reported Leinster defence coach Kurt McQuilkin.

While the New Zealander takes no comfort out of the current travails of Munster, it may not hurt that the media focus has drifted down south this week.

He is not about to shed a tear at what Anthony Foley has on his plate.

He knows it could be Leinster next week should they turn in the same dross Munster did in Paris.

If Leinster lose this game it will be the first time they have lost three home games in a row in the competition.

Bath have lost six of seven away games against Irish opposition in this competition, three of those defeats have come at the hands of Leinster.

This will be the ninth time these two teams have faced off, the Irish province have won six of the previous eight encounters.

Bath coach Mike Ford is a hard taskmaster and a true believer in his systems and his players.

They came within a whisker of taking out Toulon at Stade Felix Mayol, ultimately falling to a late Fred Michalak penalty for what could still be a priceless losing bonus-point.

"We had the edge and we showed heart and the will to win against Toulon so it was gutting to lose," Ford said.

"It was a good game and we could easily have won it with one or two better passes in the first half.

"We need to bank what we did this week both as a team in terms of preparation and as individuals."

Bath have the set-piece and the strike power to do in The RDS what they could not quite do in The Champions Cup quarter-final at The Aviva Stadium last season.

"We have nine points and two matches left to play. We can still qualify, but we have to win our last two games," he stated.

Leinster won't have forgotten how Ford's sour grapes tarnished that quarter-final.

There is payback due from that and, more recently, the narrow defeat to Bath at the Recreation Ground in round two this season.

"Listen, we are going to put out the best side we feel we can put out there and play well and represent us," insisted a fired-up McQuilkin.

"There's no intention of putting out any second rate side.

"We are going to put out the best team available to us, the best team we think can do a job for us this weekend."

There is still room for some shade of experimentation.

Garry Ringrose and Josh van der Flier have earned enough stripes to take their shot.

Second row Ross Molony is another who could come into the frame with Luke McGrath an option at scrum-half.

It is about time they were opened up to the pressure of playing against some of England's best.

"Being in this squad, everyone is so competitive. Everyone wants to win every game," said McGrath.

"We're very disappointed with where we are in Europe. We definitely owe ourselves a big performance this week.

"We owe the fans who have travelled Europe for us."

There is nothing but pride on the line for Leinster. That will have to be enough. For now.

Leinster v Bath, The RDS, Tomorrow (KO 5.30, Sky Sports 3)

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