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Saturday 17 November 2018

Cullen's men look to end run on the perfect note after pool of death

GREAT SCOT: Sexton against Glasgow in the pool stages. Pic: Sportsfile
GREAT SCOT: Sexton against Glasgow in the pool stages. Pic: Sportsfile

Should Leinster complete their relentless march to a fourth European Cup, it would mark the most impressive journey in the 23-year history of the competition.

Saracens are the only club to have come through unscathed for a perfect 9-0 record in 2016 for the first of their back-to-back crowns.

The English club came through a far less perilous pool in which they overcame Toulouse, Ulster and Oyonnax in the Pool.

After that, they steamrolled Northampton Saints in the quarter-final, Wasps in the last four and Racing 92 in the final.

In the Top 14 that year, Racing merited fourth, Toulouse fifth and last-place Oyonnax 14th at the end of the regular season.

Place

In the English Premiership, the Saints ended up fifth and Wasps were third. In the PRO12, Ulster made the semi-finals from fourth place.

In regard to Leinster this season, they have had to deal with English, French and PRO14 Clubs that have all ended the regular season at no worse than first or second in their respective leagues or conference.

The Blues have been able to turn the deflation of losing to Clermont Auvergne in last year's semi-final into a positive.

They have used it as a benchmark for how they cannot lose their discipline.

"We have played a lot of big games since then," said senior coach Stuart Lancaster.

The away win in France this season has been a breakthrough for this particular set of players.

"I wouldn't just leave it at Montpellier, who we've played twice and beaten twice," noted Lancaster.

"We played Exeter home and away, beaten them; beaten Glasgow home and away; beaten Scarlets and beaten Saracens."

Of course, it will all count for nothing unless the streak can be completed.

"We've had a good run, but it's irrelevant, what happens in the past," insisted Lancaster.

"It's what happens on the day, and certainly a fast start and a good start against a side of the quality of Racing will be key, there's no doubt."

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