Leinster now looking to kick on

AMLIN CUP QUARTER-FINAL:

Leinster now looking to kick on

The province has only played at Adams Park once before, a quarter-final which they lost to a very different Wasps team back in 2007, but the years since have seen the two clubs’ fortunes swing in different arcs and there is little to suggest that their graphs have suddenly met somewhere in the middle.

Had Leinster not been waylaid by a medieval list of injuries earlier in the season, or been landed in a pool with Clermont Auvergne, the odds are that they would still be priming themselves for a tilt at an historic hat-trick of European Cups and not facing into such an unfamiliar challenge.

Their form this calendar year does little to alter that opinion. The defeat to Ulster last Saturday was their first in eight fixtures, a run which included a superb win away to an Exeter Chiefs side that lies just one point adrift of tonight’s hosts in the Premiership’s mid-table.

Wasps have moved on from the club which flirted with both relegation and administration in the recent past and appear to be moving in the right direction but they are light years from the days of Dallaglio & Co. and, by extension, a Leinster side which maintains their own core of high achievers.

The continued absences of Jonathan Sexton, Brian O’Driscoll, Luke Fitzgerald, Eoin Reddan and Eoin O’Malley has undoubtedly weakened Joe Schmidt’s hand but few other sides could replace that talent with men like Ian Madigan and a fit again Fergus McFadden who partners Gordon D’Arcy at centre.

The greatest effect may well be felt on the bench which obviously packs less punch than heretofore in terms of backs, but Leinster have been less burdened by losses in the pack and they will field a formidable eight with Kevin McLaughlin preferred to Shane Jennings and Devin Toner partnering Leo Cullen in the second row.

Dai Young has done a commendable job in bringing a sense of stability and renewed optimism to the English club and there are good young players — full-back Elliot Daly, Christian Wade on the wing and lock-cum-back row Joe Launchbury among them — around which a decent team could be built.

Yet, Wasps have come this far in Europe via what looked like a weak Amlin group that also consisted of Bayonne, Dragons and Rugby Mogliano and they have lost four games on the bounce, with the last two coming at home against (admittedly strong opponents) Northampton and Saracens. Both of those reversals were consistent in that Wasps were never able to get their hands on enough ball and the result was a starvation diet for their deadly wings, Wade and Tom Varndell, and a plethora of penalties conceded. If Leinster can display a more aggressive attitude at the breakdown than against Ulster last week, then victory should be theirs.

Therein lies the rub. The party line from Dublin has been that the Amlin remains a carrot — if a far less appetising one than the Heineken — but it will be impossible to ascertain the visitors’ appetite until Pascal Gauzere blows the first whistle tonight.

With a home semi-final and a possible RDS decider dangling in front of them, the suspicion is that Leinster will have the stomach for the fight. If nothing else, it would remind the rest of Europe they haven’t yet gone away.

WASPS: E Daly; C Wade, A Masi, C Bell, T Varndell; N Robinson, J Simpson; S Taulafo, R Thomas, P Swainston, T Palmer, M Wentzel (c), J Launchbury, S Jones, A Johnson. Replacements: T Lindsay, T Payne, W Taylor, J Poff, B Vunipola, C Davies, S Jones, H Southwell.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; D Kearney, F McFadden, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; I Madigan, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (c), D Toner, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, Q Roux, S Jennings, J Cooney, A Goodman, A Conway.

More in this section

CourtsRugbyPlace: DublinPlace: Adams ParkPlace: EuropePerson: Jonathan SextonPerson: Brian O’DriscollPerson: Luke FitzgeraldPerson: Eoin ReddanPerson: Eoin O’MalleyPerson: Joe SchmidtPerson: Ian MadiganPerson: Fergus McFaddenPerson: Gordon D’ArcyPerson: Kevin McLaughlinPerson: Shane JenningsPerson: Devin TonerPerson: Leo CullenPerson: Dai YoungPerson: Elliot DalyPerson: Christian WadePerson: Joe LaunchburyPerson: WadePerson: Tom VarndellPerson: Pascal GauzerePerson: E DalyPerson: C WadePerson: A MasiPerson: C BellPerson: T VarndellPerson: N RobinsonPerson: J SimpsonPerson: S TaulafoPerson: R ThomasPerson: P SwainstonPerson: T PalmerPerson: M WentzelPerson: J LaunchburyPerson: S JonesPerson: A JohnsonPerson: T LindsayPerson: T PaynePerson: W TaylorPerson: J PoffPerson: B VunipolaPerson: C DaviesPerson: H SouthwellPerson: R KearneyPerson: D KearneyPerson: F McFaddenPerson: G D’ArcyPerson: I NacewaPerson: I MadiganPerson: I BossPerson: C HealyPerson: R StraussPerson: M RossPerson: L CullenPerson: D TonerPerson: K McLaughlinPerson: S O’BrienPerson: J HeaslipPerson: S CroninPerson: J McGrathPerson: J HaganPerson: Q RouxPerson: S JenningsPerson: J CooneyPerson: A GoodmanPerson: A ConwayEvent: Amlin CupEvent: Amlin Challenge CupEvent: Heineken CupEvent: European CupsOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: London WaspsOrganisation: WaspsOrganisation: Clermont AuvergneOrganisation: UlsterOrganisation: Exeter ChiefsOrganisation: DallaglioOrganisation: AmlinOrganisation: BayonneOrganisation: DragonsOrganisation: Rugby MoglianoOrganisation: NorthamptonOrganisation: SaracensOrganisation: RDS
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