Wary Easter braced for a backlash

The last time Nick Easter walked onto the pitch at the Aviva Stadium was in 2011, and England looked on the cusp of a first Six Nations Grand Slam for eight years.

Wary Easter braced for a backlash

Easter was standing in as captain for the injured Mike Tindall, but in an explosive first half, he and his England team-mates were blown away by a rampant Ireland side who raced into a 17-3 lead.

It is clearly a defeat which still irks Easter. But as he reflects on that day, the No.8 believes his Harlequins team-mates will be ready for the challenge of facing Leinster on Lansdowne Road this evening.

“I remember that game because our scrum had been going very well in the Six Nations and they walked our first one, got a penalty, and that’s exactly the sort of lift they can get,” said Easter.

“It was exactly what I have said in the forwards meeting (for this weekend). Joe (Marler) is going to be up against Mike (Ross), but it is an eight-man thing, the scrum.

“If you give them those sorts of lifts and allow them to get into their tempo game and on the front foot, then it can be a very tough game to get back into. Especially with 50,000 Irishmen on their side.

“But a lot of these guys have been in those situations now. Yes, there are 23, 24-year-olds and you might think they haven’t played on the big stage but they have. They’ve played in cup finals, a lot of them are internationals now. So they know what to expect and they are a lot better prepared.”

Last weekend’s 24-18 victory over Leinster was crucial to Harlequins’ hopes of qualifying from Pool 2, putting them top and three points clear of the Dublin side.

But the bruising win came at a cost, with England captain Chris Robshaw and fly-half Nick Evans ruled out of today’s match. “It was probably the most physical game we have been in this season,” said Easter.

“There are quite a few knocks and sore bodies around. It’s just about trying to get the body ready for Saturday for what is going to be an even bigger step up in intensity.

“They will be up two or three notches of intensity and we know we’ve got a lot more to give as well. The boys are looking forward to it. That’s what you play the game for.”

At 36, Easter admits that he has to manage his body, especially after as physical an encounter as the one at the Twickenham Stoop last weekend. But even with the aches and pains, the number eight believes it is just as important to keep his mind sharp.

“My body is holding out and my mind reminds fresh,” said Easter. “It’s not just about whether you body fails you or not when people decide to pack it in, there’s also the mental side of it. Clearly this season has been a bit of a rocky road in the league, but I am enjoying my rugby. It’s all about trying to maximise your potential, which I don’t feel I am happy with at the moment. That’s what motivates and drives me.”

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