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Connacht aim to seize chance to sink Leinster

By Ruaidhri O'Connor

Connacht may never get a better chance to win in Dublin than they have tonight.

Pat Lam has named his strongest possible team for the first of a tasty looking run of interprovincial clashes, having given most of them a week off.

Connacht are on a high after the second string's win in Bayonne last weekend and know victory over Leinster would represent a significant step on their route to European qualification for next season.

The hosts are down men, out of form and battling a storm of negativity. Their backs are against the wall, but as of yet Matt O'Connor's men have been unable to muster a response even though they've been winning matches.

History works against Connacht's argument and the bookies are unconvinced by their claim, giving Leinster an 11 point start.

The westerners have never won in the capital but are experiencing a new dawn this season.

Their credentials have been examined and they have largely passed the tests thus far. Tonight is the latest instalment.

O'Connor is expecting a furious challenge from a team who traditionally raise their game when they see Leinster blue.

Having beaten their neighbours at the Sportsground earlier this season and gone close at the RDS last, Connacht will be up for this one.

"It's a little bit of what they deliver against us and what they deliver against the Scarlets or the Dragons - is that the same beast?" O'Connor said.

"It's almost pointless looking at what they deliver in those games, it's about what it means for them to beat Leinster and, to a lesser extent, that expectation that we're dealing with every week.

"You're playing against the Pro12 champions, Leinster, one of the best teams in Europe over the last little period.

"All of those things make it a massive day wherever you go, in Europe or the Pro12, everyone wants to beat Leinster.

"There's an edge everywhere you go because it's their biggest day in the league, the biggest crowd - it's their grand final.

"That's what we'll be up against with Connacht in how desperate they are to beat Leinster."

Lam said: "I have no doubt that we are capable of creating history."

Across the pitch, the various match-ups look like Connacht can edge it.

Expect the westerners to blitz the breakdown and target Leinster's scrum.

Despite their form, Leinster have still been winning games but they've lost their metronomic boot in Ian Madigan and their pack looks vulnerable.

Chances to make history won't come much better for Connacht - it's up to them to take it and darken the mood even further in the capital.

Belfast Telegraph


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