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Friday 15 December 2017

Gaffney wants Munster focus

Leinster consultant coach Alan Gaffney has warned his players to "focus" solely on Munster in the Magners League on Friday night.

The 'one game at a time' approach surely applies in what will be first against second in the League with the prospect of the Heineken Cup quarter-final against Clermont-Auvergne just around the corner on Friday week.

"While there may be a perception that both sides may have one eye on the Heineken Cup quarter finals next week, our main focus is on what happens in Limerick," Gaffney said.

Leinster will walk into the latent hostility of a sold-out Thomond Park without Ireland captain Brian O'Driscoll, Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Horgan, who have all been absented from the extended squad.

However, this is balanced out by the return of Gordon D'Arcy, Cian Healy and the increasingly influential Jamie Heaslip in what is sure to be heated battle.

Munster bring back Paul O'Connell, Jerry Flannery, David Wallace, John Hayes and Keith Earls as Denis Hurley (hamstring) and Barry Murphy (ankle) are ruled out of the equation.

O'Connell and company will want to continue their winning ways as they contemplate the visit of a powerful Northampton Saints to Thomond the following week for their Heineken quarter-final.

As it stands, Leinster hold a four-point advantage over their old rivals in the Magners with the comfort of a game in hand. They also humiliated Tony McGahan's men 30-0 at the RDS in October. It would appear Munster's need is greatest.

"Munster played some excellent rugby at times in their win over a Glasgow side last weekend that included a significant number of the players who defeated Ireland the previous week. So that result was no mean feat.

"Leinster-Munster games are regarded as some of the biggest games of the season. Whenever these two sides go head to head one thing you can guarantee is that neither sets of players will hold back," said Gaffney.

The boost of Leinster completing the home-and-away Magners double over Munster could be just the job for a set of player still smarting from the tongue-lashing delivered by their irate coach Michael Cheika at the unacceptable and undeserving 17-14 defeat of bottom club Connacht.

"There's no doubting that we didn't reach the standards that we demand of ourselves against Connacht. Credit to them, they played particularly well. It was probably the best I've seen them play over the last few months," continued Gaffney.

Leinster will also be assisted by a reputed 4,000 strong travelling support: "The players revel in that kind of commitment because they know that in these tough economic times things aren't easy and every time they pull on a blue shirt they want to repay that.

"There's a hardcore following who would follow the team to the ends of the earth, it seems, and that gives the players, coaches and everyone involved in the organisation a massive fillip."

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