Belfast Telegraph

Leinster must seize Aviva opportunity: Nacewa

 

By David Kelly

After freezing out Exeter's power play in dreary Devon last weekend, the expectation is that the sun will shine on a heaving Aviva this afternoon and Leinster's sunshine boys will come out to play.

A convenient narrative, perhaps, and the expectation that the five points required for virtually assured automatic quarter-final qualification might be Christmas-wrapped come tea-time may be pushing the limits of even boundless optimism.

Leinster, as they proved last weekend, will do whatever it takes to get the win. If that means prompting the Aviva into the distraction of its latest Mexican Wave, so be it.

"Winning is the priority," says Isa Nacewa, temporarily impersonating a festive Grinch before, like an elf on a shelf, shifting the mood in a teasing manner.

"In fairness, we do like to play at the Aviva, we know the fans turn up to enjoy good rugby, it's definitely a place we like to impose our game.

"But winning definitely comes first. Whatever it looks like, it looks like. Fingers crossed the conditions stay nice, it's fresh and cold, the Aviva looks like a hard track. It's a good track to run on."

Leinster are more than adequately equipped with what they have at their disposal, with Josh van der Flier's introduction for the hamstrung Rhys Ruddock the only change, Sean O'Brien shifting to blindside to accommodate the new man.

Ruddock's surgery will rule him out for several months, it was confirmed by coach Leo Cullen.

On the bench there are two changes with Andrew Porter in line to make his Champions Cup debut, while Dan Leavy has shaken off a hamstring injury.

There was further good news yesterday with the word that one of Ireland's most vulnerable transfer targets, Tadhg Furlong, has committed to a new three-year deal with the IRFU.

Meanwhile Exeter coach Rob Baxter fired a warning to his players.

"We have to play better, it's as simple as that," he said. "We didn't play well enough to win.

"Not only did we make a number of unforced errors but there were quite a lot of areas where we were a little bit disjointed, a little bit unfocused, and that can be the difference."

Belfast Telegraph

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