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Thursday 14 December 2017

Battle of the best awaits

Leinster's defence will have to contain Connacht's attack

Leinster lock Mick Kearney is expecting a real test in Galway.
Leinster lock Mick Kearney is expecting a real test in Galway.

Connacht have won their last five matches in the PRO12 ahead of this vital home clash against Leinster at The Sportsground tomorrow (KO 5.15 Sky Sports/TG4).

No less than four of them have been topped up by a bonus-point. On closer examination, the outcomes average out at a scoring rate of 33 points from what is the best attack in the League.

The Westerners lead the try-chart on 49 from Cardiff on 43 and Ulster on 41 with Leinster next on the list on 38.

Pat Lam's strike-force is the only club in the League to have breached the 400-point barrier on 420 with Cardiff next best on 382 and Leinster fourth on 350.

When the other side of the ledger is opened, the picture changes dramatically in favour of tomorrow's guests. This is where Leinster come into their own.

Kurt McQuilkin has led the meanest defence in the competition.

These Blues are the only club to leak less than 200 points (198) and have allowed just 16 tries from 17 rounds.

Who would have thought it? Connacht have the best attack; Leinster the best defence.

The most relevant factor is that when all of this is balanced out, Leinster have easily the best points-difference in the PRO12 (+152) compared to Connacht's third best (+81).

There is more, so much more, than the usual inter-provincial bragging rights on the line.

Leinster lock Mick Kearney was on the other side of The Shannon for these games for five years.

Harder

"I'll tell you now, when I was at Connacht the training we did in the week of an interpro was far harder than any interpro that we played in.

"It was fairly vicious and it gets you ready for the game," he said.

Kearney won't have to remind his Leinster team-mates about what will come at them in light of the one-point loss to Connacht in Galway last season.

The prize possession of first in the League waits for the winner; the unwanted drain of the points dropped for the loser.

Perhaps, the biggest sign of the importance of this East-West derby is that Nigel Owens has been appointed as the referee.

The Welsh whistler will need to have his wits about him in what will be a guaranteed Irish barnstormer.

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