Glasgow still a real threat, stresses Leinster’s Sexton

UNBEATEN in 14 games, nine points clear in the RaboDirect Pro12, six ahead of their nearest rival in Pool 3 of the Heineken Cup.

It would be perfectly understandable for Leinster to be combating complacency as Joe Schmidt turns his juggernaut in the direction of Glasgow and a fifth-round tie that could secure the holders’ place in the last eight, with a home tie to boot.

They aren’t, though. Not according to Jonathan Sexton.

“No. We are definitely not complacent, going over to Firhill. You can’t be complacent going to a place where they haven’t lost since September. They are a really good side. We have watched them a lot so we need to be ready for them.”

Thing is, we have heard this before. Eight weeks ago, Schmidt and his lads spoke of Sean Lineen’s side in similarly reverent tones but they had the win and fifth bonus point secured by the time the sides left the RDS pitch at half-time. Lineen described it as “men against boys” stuff.

So, once bitten and all that... and yet there are grounds for caution.

The Irish province came a-cropper on its last five visits to Glasgow in the Magners League. Lineen’s side is defending an unbeaten record on home soil that stretches back to the Rugby World Cup and qualification is still well within their grasp with two games to go.

“It is difficult for any team (to go there),” said Sexton.

“We have seen some of the results they had in the Heineken Cup in the past — even when they are out of the tournament and coming up against other teams still in it and really wanting to win.”

Among the victims to perish (at a ground chiefly known as the home of Partick Thistle) this last five years have been Wasps, Biarritz and Saracens but even bigger guns such as Toulouse and Leinster themselves have left with European wins to their name in that same spell.

There is little to suggest Leinster should not do so again on Sunday. Minor concerns over Sexton (cramp) and Gordon D’Arcy (ribs) were brushed aside yesterday while lock Damien Browne has recovered from a bout of illness.

“Not many teams could manage the loss of a player of Brian O’Driscoll’s talents and influence in the way Leinster have coped but they have a fantastic culture and strong leaders throughout the team that makes Leinster what they are,” said Lineen.

“Our guys certainly know they are in for another huge test on Sunday but it is one they are very much looking forward to.”

That’s another thing: this is new ground for Glasgow who, like Edinburgh, are on the sort of upward curve Scottish rugby has yearned for so long but with that comes greater pressure and much less margin for error.

Sexton said: “They will be looking at it as a one-off and a scalp and will be really fired up. Their coach said when they came to the RDS that they got bullied at the breakdown so they will target that area.”

It could yet be a weekend of epic proportions for Scottish rugby if Edinburgh solidify their position atop Pool 2 on Friday when they visit Racing Metro and Glasgow pull off a shock.

“There is a feelgood factor in Scottish rugby,” said Lineen who has injury concerns over out-half Ruaridh Jackson and prop Moray Low, “It’s up to us and Edinburgh to build on that.”

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