Click here for photos from Leinster’s press conference at the RDS, previewing their trip to face Bourgoin in Heineken Cup Pool Five on Saturday.
Pictured above: Leinster coach Michael Cheika taking questions at Wednesday’s press conference at the RDS. When asked about his involvement in Brian O’Driscoll’s signature on a new contract, the Australian said: “The most important person involved in the whole procedure was Brian. It’s about what he wants to do. I don’t think this is a competition to decide who got him to stay. It was up to Brian.
“I’m happy for the team that he made this decision, but I’m also happy for him that he’s feeling good about where he is at the moment. Any player wants to be happy about they place they’re playing in. Yeah, money and all those things are important – but when you get to a certain level, you just want to be an environment where you can play the best football you can, and enjoy yourself as well.”
Leinster prop Emmett Byrne, who, if selected, will earn his 90th cap for the province at the Stade Pierre Rajon on Saturday afternoon. The 32-year-old has played 38 times for Leinster in the Heineken Cup including last weekend’s 53-7 drubbing of Bourgoin, coming on as a replacement for former captain Reggie Corrigan. Byrne started last season’s meeting between the sides in Bourgoin, propping down on the tighthead side with Corrigan at loosehead. A late Brian O’Driscoll try saw Leinster to a dramatic 26-23 win back then.
Emmett Byrne, Michael Cheika and Leinster flanker Keith Gleeson laughing at yesterday’s press conference. Irish international Gleeson, 29, has championed the re-signing of centre and captain Brian O’Driscoll for the 2006/07 season.
Gleeson said: “The first I heard of it (that Brian would be staying) was on the radio like anyone else. It’s a great boost for the country and Leinster. It’s a reflection to what’s been going on at Leinster – how hard the Leinster management have worked, showing Brian what the club has to offer, and he’s responded to that.
“It was a difficult summer with so many players leaving but I think now there’s a definite plan to get players to stay in this country and Brian’s commitment shows that. All of us want to be part of a winning Leinster team in the Celtic League and Heineken Cup and we’ve a much better chance if we hold on to our best players,” Gleeson added.
Michael Cheika’s competitive record, since signing for Leinster in May, reads eight wins and four defeats. The first round of the Heineken Cup pool stages in October saw Leinster succumb to a 22-19 loss at the hands of Bath at their new European home of the RDS. Cheika has added prop Ronan McCormack, lock Adam Byrnes and flanker and sometime scrum half Niall Ronan to his 22-man squad from last weekend for the trip to Bourgoin.
Brothers Brian and David Blaney are injury doubts. Cheika said: “We’ve had a couple of little hiccups since then with our hookers (David and Brian Blaney). The Blaney brothers seem to do everything together anyway, and they both picked up injuries in training on Monday.
“They just aggravated old injuries. We trained pretty hard on Monday, and anytime we have a good session, we end up with a few guys on the sideline, and it just happened to be those two boys that copped it. We feel that they’ll be fine by tomorrow (Thursday) though.”
A poster hanging from the main stand at the RDS offering Michael Cheika’s side support for Saturday’s clash. Meanwhile, Leinster Rugby have confirmed that ticket sales for their New Year’s Eve Celtic League clash with Munster at the RDS have hit the 6,000 mark. Further ticket details are available at www.leinsterrugby.ie
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**