THE BIG DAYS keep rolling for Leinster, and with another bumper Christmas crowd expected at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow night, Leo Cullen’s side are hoping to rise to the occasion again.
Champion sides make a habit of winning, and despite not being at their best in Bath last weekend, the defending European champions were able to dig deep and grind out a vital 17-10 win, to keep pace with Pool 1 leaders Toulouse.
Ringrose in training this week. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
A return to Lansdowne Road for Saturday evening’s return leg in these December double-headers will attract a near sell-out crowd, the success of both the province and national team over the last 18 months reflected in the soaring levels of interest and support.
Over 42,000 tickets have been sold for the round four clash against Bath [KO 5.30pm, BT Sport], and while many inside the Aviva come kick-off will be in full festive mood, Leinster remain fully focused on the task at hand.
A bruising, old-school European clash last week was ultimately settled by Jordan Larmour’s intercept try, and the province are certainly expecting a backlash from the Premiership visitors on Saturday, with Todd Blackadder promising his side will go ‘full metal jacket’ in Dublin.
And while all the odds point to a home win — as Leinster’s recent record over Bath shows they have won eight of the 10 previous meetings, while the province have also won each of their last 10 home games in Europe — Garry Ringrose is very wary of the threat of a ‘world-class’ outfit.
“They’ll be kicking themselves, as they missed a couple of opportunities,” the centre said.
“We’ll have to be aware of that and know that after any game, we say we want to improve, but they’ll be looking to do more of the same too, where they got access into the game.
“They’ll be coming to win the game and we’ll be looking to win at home as well. It will be equally tough, if not a tougher game again [than last week].
Leinster go into Saturday two points behind Toulouse at the halfway juncture of the pool stages, while Bath — hurt by last week’s home defeat — are sitting in third on five points, having yet to register a win this campaign.
Their record in Ireland, winning just once [22-9 win v Leinster in 2005/06] in eight visits in this competition, doesn’t augur well but the trouble they caused Cullen’s side last week will engender confidence within their ranks that they can come and raid the Aviva.
The work of Sam Underhill and the equally excellent Francois Louw at the Rec saw Leinster concede seven penalties at the rucks, and it will be another key battleground on Saturday, with Cullen likely to rejig his back row and restore Jack Conan at number eight.
Retaining possession and ensuring quick ball has been a big focus for Leinster this week.