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.

“It is such an important part of the game,” Ringrose continues. “You can have the best-laid plans, and ultimately if you don’t win your ball, get quick ball, it’s tough to play in.

“I wouldn’t even call it as a tactic by them, they just have world-class players in those positions, that they could disrupt us. It wouldn’t even be specifically against us, you see any team that Bath play, they get huge access through that with the quality of players they have.

Ringrose is expected to start for Leinster. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“I think we were definitely conscious of it going into the game, but if it’s possible to have an even more heightened awareness of the threats they have — not just Underhill and Louw — as they’ve threats right across the pack and guys who can come on as well.

“If it wasn’t one of them putting pressure on the breakdown it was one of the backs or the other forwards. It will be a big part of the game.”

The weather forecast for Dublin — heavy rain and wind — may make it another arm-wrestle, but the atmosphere promises to provide a real edge to proceedings under the Lansdowne lights, as it always has been for this traditional Christmas fixture at the national stadium.

Leinster, the leading points scorers [96] and try scorers [13] in this year’s Champions Cup, have enjoyed many memorable days at the Aviva in recent times, and the province boast a formidable record at their second home, having won 10 on the bounce there.

“We always consider ourselves lucky, the 23 guys who get to go out and play in the Aviva, which is a massive opportunity in front of the supporters who pay to go and watch us,” Ringrose, who will start in the Leinster midfield again, says.

“It means a huge amount to us and the atmosphere there is incredible. We all want to be there on the day and represent the whole group and show the supporters how much it means to us, that’s always what we’re striving to do.

“It’s always amazing when you go out and it’s 50,000 people at a club game, which is hard to find anywhere else in the world. It’s amazing to be part of days like that, in terms of the atmosphere it does sometimes make a huge difference in the RDS or the Aviva when we feel like we have that 16th man on the pitch.” 

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Murray Kinsella, Gavan Casey and Eddie O’Sullivan preview another big weekend of Heineken Cup action and dissect the week’s main talking points.

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