herald

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Sean O'Brien should be back to for final qualification push

Leinster's Sean O'Brien, left, and Rob Kearney arriving for squad training
Leinster's Sean O'Brien, left, and Rob Kearney arriving for squad training

It was less than two weeks ago when Leinster were eyeing up the mathematical requirements to take them up into the Top-4 of the PRO12 League.

This week, they have had to readjust their sights downwards onto the two clubs lurking behind them in order to qualify for the Champions Cup.

This is a psychological shift of giant proportions.

Seán O'Brien, Jimmy Gopperth and Mike McCarthy all sat out training on Monday with minor knocks.

However, all three are expected to be fit for purpose against Benetton Treviso at The RDS on Friday night.

There are just two clubs in the PRO12 League with nothing tangible to play for this weekend and - wouldn't you know it - those clubs, Cardiff and The Dragons, will play Leinster's rivals for Europe, The Scarlets and Edinburgh.

The willingness of TheBlues to delve down into the trenches against Llanelli must be questionable at Parc Y Scarlets on Sunday.

In fact, The Scarlets, who went down to Edinburgh in their last match there, have not lost back-to-back matches at home since December 2009.

Cardiff have lost their last four matches in all tournaments since beating Connacht 18-17 at home on March 6th.

The Blues have picked up just eleven league points on the road this season. Only the two Italian sides have had a poorer return away from home.

Likewise, Challenge Cup finalists Edinburgh will aim for five points against The Dragons away on Friday night.

It will be interesting to see whether the Welsh club can play with the same ferocity that undid Leinster at Rodney Parade last month.

The Dragons have won their last three matches at Rodney Parade in all competitions since losing there to Connacht in the PRO12 on February 22nd.

Edinburgh have won their last three away in all tournaments, and have lost just once in their last seven with Welsh opposition.

This all move the burden of pressure heavily onto Leinster's shoulders.

PRO12 LEAGUE

FINAL TWO ROUNDS

LEINSTER: v Treviso (h); v Edinburgh (a).

THE SCARLETS: v Cardiff (h); v Treviso (a).

EDINBURGH: v The Dragons (a); v Leinster (h).

PRO12 League

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