Leinster sweat on D'Arcy and Sexton
LEINSTER will take a wait-and-see approach to injuries for Jonathan Sexton (hamstring) and Gordon D'Arcy (ribs) ahead of their trip to Glasgow Warriors next Sunday.
D'Arcy is thought to be the more serious of the two. He had a scan yesterday to diagnose the seriousness of his problem from a bang on the ribcage in the 23-19 PRO12 League win over Cardiff Blues on Saturday.
Needless to say, Leinster are already short of Brian O'Driscoll in this area. It is just as well coach Joe Schmidt had the confidence to start Eoin O'Malley and Fergus McFadden at home to Bath in the fourth round of the competition.
More importantly, tactically, the absence of out-half Sexton would leave a monster hole in experience and game-management in Scotland, an area where understudy Ian Madigan still struggles.
Glasgow were just one of three of the top five PRO12 clubs to lose at the weekend. They were edged out 16-14 at the Scarlets, the Ospreys fell to the Dragons 21-20 and Cardiff could not reel in Leinster.
All of this means Leinster have stretched their advantage at the head of affairs to nine points from the Ospreys, with Munster moving into third with their bonus-point defeat of Treviso and the Warriors in the final play-off place.
That written, the Heineken Cup is a different competition. It requires another mentality for the consequent lift in intensity and focus.
In Pool Three, the champions hold a six-point advantage over Glasgow, with the knowledge that a victory in Scotland will almost guarantee them a quarter-final berth, given that Montpellier will be last on the list at the RDS.
On the other hand, Glasgow are still in the hunt for the knockout phases and an upset over Leinster will leave them with everything to play for at Bath in the final round.
"It is a huge game for us next week," said Leinster manager Guy Easterby. "We do have the mantra of 'take it one game at a time'. It is massive. They are going into it off a loss to the Scarlets.
"We also realise we are going to have to really up our game. It is Europe. Glasgow, in fairness to them, are playing very well at Firhill," added Easterby.
"They are a really difficult proposition there. Our minds will be focused solely on Glasgow. We are going to have to prepare very well. It won't be easy over there."
Certainly, Leinster will have plenty to mull over from their patchy performance against Cardiff. They started like a house on fire, Sean O'Brien and Rob Kearney burning up the ground for converted tries in the first 10 minutes.
The old one-two between O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip tore Cardiff apart for O'Brien to lunge for the line in the sixth minute.
Then, Sean Cronin's inside slide-rule pass enabled Kearney to skirt through the first line and around the despairing grasp of Welshman Leigh Halfpenny.
From there, captain-for-the-night Heaslip had to help absorb a second-half Cardiff recovery to leave the score poised at 20-19 before Fergus McFadden sealed victory with a penalty in the 67th minute.
"When we had to defend we did," remarked Easterby. "It showed the character of the team. We didn't have a lot of field position or a lot of ball at all in the second-half.
"We rode our luck a little. At the same time, we showed there are positives to be taken from this performance. We came to Cardiff -- they have a game in hand on us -- and took home four points.
"That is not an easy thing to do. That was a great result. There are things we need to work on. Going to Glasgow, we know we need to improve. We know that."