Cheika hoping Leinster can please the travelling fans

STEPHEN KEOGH is battling to be fit for Saturday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against London Wasps in Adams Park (5.45pm, Sky Sports).

Keogh’s training was curtailed due to a rib injury sustained in the Magners League win over Connacht.

Leinster coach Michael Cheika remains confident Keogh will be available, though he must plan without inspirational captain Brian O’Driscoll, who recovers from a damaged hamstring.

Despite the skipper’s on-field absence, Girvan Dempsey expects O’Driscoll to play a key role on Saturday from the sidelines

Said the full back “He will get in his say at some stage. He’s one of the best players in the world, but he will be surely adding his weight to what’s going on the pitch.”

Meanwhile, Cheika is upbeat about Leinster’s prospects against the Premiership outfit.

“Overall, we have enjoyed a pretty good season, going well in both major competitions. It’s where everyone wants to be at this stage of the season.

“This is a battle we have been looking forward to for a while. Have no doubt about it, there’s going to be a big battle. We have had a long time to prepare for it and look at the opposition. Now we’re trying to transfer what we know about them into a match situation to beat them.”

He continued: “From our research, it’s clear they have the capability of strangling you in defence and in attack. They can keep the ball away from you for long periods, both from their play up front, where Ibanez (Raphael) is very much a spearhead for them, or from their attack out wide where they have some very good strike runners. They’re really very good at keeping possession.

“It’s going to be a major challenge of our ability to move them around so that we can switch the point of attack and keep the pressure on them in every area.”

Cheika isn’t worried by his side’s Jekyll and Hyde performance against Connacht in the Magners League on Saturday.

“I’ve gone past the stage of comparing one game to another. I’ve seen us go from great heights to lows, so I think it’s just important to forget about last week and concentrate on this.

“There’s always a day when things don’t quite go for you, but over a month, two or three months, you reach the targets you’ve set for yourself. We have been developing to be consistent the whole time; I think the fact that we were competitive right to the latter stages of both tournaments last year and that we’re in the same position this year speaks more about how we have progressed than having one big win or one poor game.

“We know we can compete against anyone. Having established that it’s going to come down to how we peak on the day. That’s what it’s all going to be about. If you can add passion to your game then you’re in with a big shout.”

And Cheika is hoping for the big shout from a record breaking 3,000 strong group of travelling Leinster fans. Slowly, but surely, the province is finding it has a fan base. “If you look back to the Bath match last year, it was clear there was a lot of enthusiasm. Brian (O’Driscoll) brought the team over to that side of the pitch after the warm-up, and it was a major boost for the players, just as it will be this week with so many in a stadium that holds something short of 11,000.”

LEINSTER (from):

Forwards: F. Pala’amo, S. Wright, R. Corrigan, W. Green, B. Jackman, B. Blaney, M. O’Kelly, T. Hogan, O. Finegan, C. Jowitt, D. Toner, K. Gleeson, S. Keogh, J. Heaslip.

Backs: C. Whitaker, G. Easterby, C. Warner, F. Contepomi, K. Lewis, L. Fitzgerald, R. Kearney, G. D’Arcy, S. Horgan, D. Hickey, G. Dempsey.

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