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Saturday 23 September 2017

Sexton factor critical to cup defence

Out-half keeping results rolling in but admits Leinster can improve in areas

LEINSTER'S Jonathan Sexton may very well have to be their Player of the Year for the province to put back-to-back Heineken Cup titles together this season.

The out-half slot is that critical to the game plan. The National Football League's equivalent of the quarterback can be the guiding light and the saving grace.

While Leinster are in the winning habit, Connacht in Galway and Cardiff in Wales have been less-than-marvellous performances.



Inconsistent

"Results-wise, we're going well. There are a few aspects of our game that Joe (Schmidt) is highlighting that aren't up to scratch and they have been improving week-on-week," said Sexton, who will nurse a tight hamstring this week.

"The main one is the breakdown. At times, we are a little bit inconsistent. Our discipline hasn't been great either. They are two aspects we've been concentrating on.

"It is fitting because this weekend, those two aspects will be key against Glasgow over in Firhill. It is difficult for any team (there). Even when they've been out of the competition, they've turned over teams that have been trying to qualify.

"They will be looking at it as a one-off, as a scalp. They will be fired up for it. Their coach said, when they came to The RDS, they were bullied at the breakdown. They will target that.

"We can't give away anything soft that will allow the crowd to get into the game and let them get on top. It is as much about us trying to control ourselves as anything else."

Gordon D'Arcy (ribs) will be monitored to Friday and Damian Browne has recovered from an illness that meant he didn't travel over to Cardiff for Saturday.

The demeanour of Glasgow coach Sean Lineen was that of an angry man when Leinster whipped The Warriors 38-13 in round two back in November.

"That defeat in Dublin was hugely disappointing but we do not need any additional motivation for Sunday other than that we will be playing the current European champions -- and knowing that right now they are in outstanding form," said Lineen yesterday.

The former Scotland centre agrees that Sexton adds "that little bit more special" from fly-half to make Leinster a force to be feared in Europe.

Then again, to target one man alone would be to under-estimate the constant firepower in front of Sexton from a high-tempo pack of forwards and outside him along a quick-fire backline.

"Leinster's overall game is pretty much complete and they are tremendously physical at the breakdown. They also make the right decisions across the board," conceded Lineen.



Culture

"They have a fantastic culture and a lot of strong leaders throughout the team that makes Leinster what they are. From players like Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa at the back, to their half backs and a really formidable back row, they are some side.

"Our next two games in the Heineken Cup are absolutely huge in terms of our ambitions not only for this season but also beyond into the seasons ahead," said Lineen

"However, if you do not bring your 'A' game to Heineken Cup matches then you can find yourself in real trouble and we know we are going to have to really perform at our best against Leinster and then again at Bath."

It will take something extra-special for Glasgow to qualify for the quarter-finals for the first time. Standing in their way will be Leinster's 'extra special' playmaker.

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