Belfast Telegraph

Determined Leinster are aiming for summit of Pro12

By Cian Tracey

In a typical season for Leinster, their final Pro12 game before attentions turn to the climax of the Champions Cup pool stages would represent a dress rehearsal of sorts. But the importance of this evening's clash against the Ospreys far outweighs anything that is to come in the next couple of weeks.

Zero wins from their four games has left Leinster's European ambitions well and truly buried, but on the domestic front, there have been plenty of signs of rejuvenation in recent weeks - and they will go top if they win in Wales.

Leo Cullen's maiden season in charge of his home province now hinges entirely on what they achieve in the Pro12 but for tonight's opponents, their focus is not as straightforward.

The Ospreys currently sit top of their pool and although they may be overtaken later tonight, depending on the result between Bordeaux-Begles and Clermont Auvergne, they will return to Europe next week with major ambitions of advancing to the knockout stages.

The most surprising of Cullen's six changes to the team which saw off Connacht last weekend is the omission of Garry Ringrose, not only from the starting XV but from the match day squad.

A lot has been written and said about the 20-year old in recent weeks but the fact remains he is currently the form 13 in Leinster's squad and arguably in Irish rugby right now.

"We want our young players to be able to play for Leinster for 12 to 15 years so that's an important part of it. There's a lot of games this season and we want to make sure that guys come through in the right manner."

Johnny Sexton has shaken off the knee injury that prematurely ended his involvement last time out and he will renew his rivalry with Dan Biggar.

The Wales out-half enjoyed an outstanding World Cup in comparison to Sexton, who admitted that being forced off against France was the biggest disappointment of his career.

Sexton and Biggar are set to meet again in Dublin when Ireland take on Wales in their Six Nations opener on February 7 and the the pair's heavyweight clash at the Liberty Stadium is sure to have a major say in which side continues their winning run.

Belfast Telegraph


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