Jonathan Sexton’s mood was one of the talking points in a disappointing Six Nations campaign for Ireland and it’s unlikely that his humour has improved given his absence from today’s Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final between Leinster and Ulster.
Leo Cullen believes every one of the 15 Leinster players who featured in Ireland’s disappointing Six Nations campaign will feel they have a point to prove when the province faces Ulster in a Heineken Champions Cup quarter-final on Saturday evening.
It was a performance riddled with mistakes, so many of them elementary, but the side's reaction to adversity in the second-half, when coming from 13-0 down to claim the lead and hold out in the face of considerable pressure, was impressive.
Ulster go into their Pool 4, Heineken Cup battle against Racing 92 this evening without talisman scrum-half, John Cooney, who has a shoulder injury. Dave Shanahan steps in at the spectacular La Defense Arena, in the western suburbs of Paris. Kieran Treadwell is coming in at lock for Alan O’Connor, while tight-head, Marty Moore, gets his first competitive Ulster start, since his move from Wasps in the summer.
We’re just over 10 years removed from Ronan O’Gara’s famous swipe at the English Premiership, but the debate on the relative merits of that league and the PRO12 will zoom back into focus on Saturday when the respective league leaders clash in a Champions Cup quarter-final in Dublin.
Top of the league, two games to go and with a near fully fit squad: everything is falling into place for Leinster as the Guinness Pro12 season comes to a close, but Girvan Dempsey knows that it takes just one slip for their position to be badly compromised.
Joe Schmidt may have made it a mission to expand Ireland’s strength in depth at Test level but it still takes little to reveal just how thin on the ground are those players who are eligible, ready and able to wear the green jersey.