Leinster have enough power to reverse setback

We got it wrong with our prediction in these pages last week, but then so did Leinster.

Leinster have enough power to reverse setback

Who could have foreseen their eight Ireland Test forwards coming second best against Harlequins in the scrum and at the breakdown?

Or that their attack would again be so toothless on the few occasions they did generate go-forward ball?

Even with all that, the margin of defeat was still only a converted try and there are more than a few reasons for suspecting Matt O’Connor’s side can reverse that deficit.

Home advantage is merely the most obvious of them.

Conor O’Shea pitches up without England captain and flanker Chris Robshaw, who suffered a shoulder injury six days ago, while Kiwi out-half Nick Evans is also absent having lasted just a dozen minutes at The Stoop.

His replacement, young South African Tim Swiel, did little last Sunday to give Leinster reason to fear second time around and O’Connor admitted they would target the inexperienced 10 as well as Robshaw’s deputy Jack Clifford.

Leinster, by contrast, gain as much as they lose from their changes. If not more.

Isaac Boss replaces Eoin Reddan at scrum-half after the latter’s below par display last week and Luke Fitzgerald takes over from the injured Gordon D’Arcy in midfield, a switch which allows Zane Kirchner a place on the wing.

Dominic Ryan, described by O’Connor as Leinster’s best forward this season, returns from injury to take Jordi Murphy’s place in the back row, while Kane Douglas is promoted from the bench to relieve Mike McCarthy in the second row.

Leinster will hope Romain Poite takes a more sympathetic view of their efforts in the scrum than Jerome Garces did last time and the lingering taste of defeat should ensure a greater physicality and speed at the ruck, too.

Manage that and it falls to Jimmy Gopperth to answer his critics with a performance that gets his backline moving against a side that already possesses a more favourable points difference and try differential as the January cut-off point approaches.

A home win, then, not least because defeat and it’s possible repercussions for their season at such an early juncture is unthinkable.

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