Belfast Telegraph

Thomond cauldron is Leinster litmus test: Tracy

Tough challenge: James Tracy
Tough challenge: James Tracy

By Rua O'Connor

Leinster's James Tracy has warned his team-mates they face an altogether tougher challenge than anything they've experienced during their unbeaten season when they land in Thomond Park on Saturday.

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The boys in blue want to avoid an unlucky 13th match of the campaign as they head south to face their biggest rivals and, while the fixture may be shorn of some stardust as many of Ireland's World Cup contingent get Christmas off, there will be no shortage of bite.

Leinster suffered a defeat in last year's edition of the fixture after James Lowe saw red and Tracy is warning his team-mates not to let the Thomond atmosphere get to them.

"As a rugby fan, it's probably my favourite place to play. I've had bad days there, but that makes the good days all the better," hooker Tracy said."It's an iconic ground, it's been sold out for the last few years for this fixture and it's an unbelievable one to be part of.

"It is a great yardstick of seeing how you are going because it's one of the most intense games, as tough, if not tougher than any of the European games intensity-wise.

"It's a cauldron, until you've been in it sometimes you don't know what's been going on until it's over. The pressure, they're brilliant at riding the wave of momentum down there - it's a lot different to other fixtures.

"I remember going down as 24th man years ago and even getting heckled when I wasn't even playing," he laughed. "I was in the warm-up and still getting abuse. That's what you deal with. I was like 'wow, this place is something else.'"

If he comes through training, Joey Carbery could be included in the Munster team named tomorrow.

Meanwhile Munster's Sammy Arnold observed: "I don't know anywhere else in the world where you get 26,000 to a club game. It's a special feature and lucky if you are involved in it. It must be the biggest club rugby match in the world."

Arnold made his Ireland debut just over a year ago against USA but his hopes of pushing on from there were dashed when he fractured a leg against Connacht on the opening weekend in January.

The hard-working centre, who had played in all four Heineken Champions Cup at that stage last season, didn't feature again in the competition last term and missed the chance to stake a claim for Six Nations or World Cup duty.

The Surrey native made it back for a few appearances towards the end of the season but a few niggles this term has seen him start just twice and getting an Irish recall is down the list of priorities this Christmas.

"Obviously, I want to play for Ireland, there is no secret about that. I loved my experiences in camp with Joe (Schmidt) and Faz (Andy Farrell) but if you're not playing the big games you can't expect to be playing for Ireland.

"It would have been absolutely delusional to think I was going to be involved in the 'stocktake' because I haven't played, and I haven't played well enough when I have played.

"For me at the moment it's getting that consistent run of games and that form and playing well and there's absolutely no doubt in my mind I'm good enough I just have to get that run of games."

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