Blaney ready to get physical

ANYONE dismissive of the trademark horror stories of what it is like to be a visiting player — particularly a forward — in the south of France should look no further than Leinster’s Brian Blaney.

Twelve months ago, the 24-year-old played in that neck of the woods for the first time — against Bourgoin in Pool Five of the Heineken Cup — and the home pack weren’t long in making his acquaintance.

“Yeah, I got an elbow to the face in the first few minutes but that was just a welcome to Bourgoin,” he said casually.

He expects a similarly edgy script tomorrow as Leinster look to put back to back victories together against Agen when they meet in a crucial European encounter at what is sure to be a heaving Stade Armandie.

“I can’t wait,” he insisted. “That sort of atmosphere will get us fired up. They were very physical last week. They have a serious pack but they probably weren’t as physical as I thought they would be.”

That Blaney believes the Agen pack weren’t operating at full throttle in Lansdowne Road last Saturday is a sobering thought given the chaos they caused the home side at scrum time.

Time and again, Leinster collapsed in a heap under the weight of what is one of the best and beefiest packs in the European theatre of operations and, if anything, the collateral damage could be even greater in the return.

“Last week was a tough week. We all know that they’re probably one of the toughest scrummaging units in Europe with guys like Kees Meeuws and Ace Tiatia.

“Our technique let us down badly last week. We know that. We’ve done the analysis. We’ll get that right for this week and hopefully put it up to them.’’

Like his coach Michael Cheika, Blaney doesn’t do negativity.

“This is going to be a completely different game. We know what a win will do to the group and what position it would put us in. It’s a massive game.’’

This time last year Blaney estimated that it would take him four years to reach his peak as a hooker so the best should still be yet to come.

Meanwhile Cardiff coach Dai Young has selected a team that shows four changes for tomorrow’s Heineken Cup match against Munster at Thomond Park.

Nick Macleod gets a well-deserved start at 10, while Tom Shanklin is brought in from the wing to partner Jamie Robinson as Marc Stcherbina drops to the bench.

John Yapp starts in the front row as Gethin Jenkins was not considered after injuring his calf.

Bradley Davies gets a start in the second row after James Goode picked up an ankle injury in last Sunday’s defeat.

CARDIFF BLUES: B. Blair, T. James, J. Robinson, T. Shanklin; C. Czekaj, N. Macleod, M. Phillips, X. Rush (C), M. Williams, S. Morgan, D. Jones, B. Davies, T. Filise, T. Thomas, J. Yapp.

Replacements: G. Powell, G. Williams, M. Lewis, B. White, W. Evans, N. Robinson, M. Stcherbina.

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