Gaffney eyes improvement as Leinster prepare to go west

LEINSTER consultant coach Alan Gaffney says that despite defeating Ulster, his squad are looking for a marked improvement against Connacht in their Magners League match at the Sportsground this weekend (Saturday, 4pm).

“We know from experience that we’ll face tough opposition up in Galway, so irrespective of their defeat to Munster last weekend, we know to expect a backlash from them,’’ he said.

“You always get a tough contest in the Sportsground, but it will be a good test for us and one that we are looking forward to.

“They have shown how capable they are at home. Look at their recent run in Europe when they earned two outstanding victories over Worcester in the Amlin Challenge Cup.

“To beat them over in England was no mean feat, so that indicates to us that Connacht are a side that is improving and who are gaining greater consistency both at home and away.

“It will be a real battle this week. They have a very competitive forward pack; Sean Cronin and Brett Wilkinson were involved with the Ireland squad over the November series, not to mention the likes of Jamie Hagan – who we know – and Johnny Muldoon who is an excellent performer.

“They’re a hard grafting pack, and that’s not to mention their backline who don’t get the credit that they deserve. They have scored some good tries in recent weeks so it will be a test of our defence as well.’’

Leinster may have ran out 15-3 winners over Ulster but Gaffney was less than impressed with the Heineken Cup champions’ performance.

“From our perspective we weren’t happy with how we played against Ulster.

“We know that we have to maintain higher standards and that starts again for us this weekend because we want to keep a high placing in the Magners League,’’ Gaffney said.

“It is important that we go out this weekend and play some attacking rugby like we know that we can, because we didn’t manage that against Ulster.’’

“I know that the boys have got their heads screwed on for the challenge ahead and we will look to approach the game in a positive manner.”

Scotland international Nathan Hines is in contention for selection having missed last weekend’s match and bolsters a strong squad showing a mix of youth and experience.

Ireland internationals Leo Cullen, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Trevor Hogan, Shane Horgan, Bernard Jackman, Sean O’Brien, Malcolm O’Kelly and Mike Ross are included alongside the likes of Ian Madigan, Jack McGrath and Paul Ryan who are rewarded for their recent good form in the British & Irish Cup.

Shaun Berne impressed once more in his 10th Leinster appearance in the RDS last weekend and the former Australia ‘A’ out-half has now scored 41 points in all competitions.

Fergus McFadden and Paul O’Donohoe are also included with both products of the Leinster Academy having made their European bows in the back-to-back victories over the Scarlets this month.

The team is expected to be named on Friday lunchtime.

LEINSTER: forwards: L Cullen, N Hines, T Hogan, B Jackman, S Keogh, R McCormack, J McGrath, K McLaughlin, S O’Brien, M O’Kelly, M Ross, P Ryan, R Strauss, D Toner, S Wright; Backs: S Berne, G D’Arcy, G Dempsey, S Horgan, D Kearney, S Keogh, I Madigan, F McFadden, I Nacewa, P O’Donohoe, E Reddan.


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