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Monday 20 November 2017

Fine run spurs on McLaughlin

Blues flanker plots good semi show to seal Tour spot

Ireland flanker Kevin McLaughlin knows everything will be at stake, personally and collectively, when Leinster and Munster tangle in the Magners League semi-final on Saturday.

The Leinster shortside flanker will go head-to-head with Munster's Alan Quinlan for the right to succeed the currently injured Stephen Ferris as the number six option for next month's tour to New Zealand and Australia.

"You are pitting yourself against guys in your position who are up for selection. It is definitely the best way to do it. There is no better way than to play against each other in a high quality, high intensity game," he said.

"Obviously, I would love to go on tour. I have to concentrate on playing well. If I get picked -- brilliant. I will try to get another cap or two under my belt. It is at the back of my mind."

McLaughlin had to be content with his Six Nations debut against Italy at Croke Park. He was not given the opportunity to build on his first start due to the form of Ferris -- not even as a replacement.

"I was (the) 23rd man for all the games after that, getting a feel for it, doing the warm-up, getting pumped up and, then, not playing at all. It was definitely tough. I want to keep on improving to give myself a chance," he said.

Leinster scrum-half Eoin Reddan, a Limerickman, is another looking to turn the head of Ireland coach Declan Kidney. He will hope to put one over on his former club and Tomás O'Leary.

"At this stage of the season, I don't think you are in a position to worry about who you are playing against. Edinburgh came here. They were in sixth or seventh. They still had something to play for," Reddan said.

"We knew we would be playing the fourth best team. The fact that it is Munster adds to it. The game is going to be massive."

The play-off system has given the league an injection of interest and a proper climax that clubs and supporters can build towards.

"It is in the back of your head. When you are playing away in Cardiff in the middle of the Six Nations, you know what you are playing towards. Now, we're here, we have to really produce the goods on Saturday."

Leinster coach Michael Cheika is not too concerned about the fatigue factor, despite the loss of his captain Leo Cullen (shoulder) and, probably, Shaun Berne (leg) and Sean O'Brien (ankle).

"The intensity in these games comes naturally. There is a valid point of busted-up bodies. But, adrenaline is a pretty amazing thing," Cheika stated.

"It is not just a derby. There is a place in the final at stake. That is something both teams will want because they've both got winning cultures."

Meanwhile, Ireland winger Tommy Bowe was last night crowned the IRUPA Player of the Year by his fellow Irish players. "I'm absolutely thrilled," said the Monaghan man. "It's great to be recognised by the other players, especially when you're playing overseas."

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