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Cheika And Leinster Chase Title-Clinching Win

Cheika And Leinster Chase Title-Clinching Win

Leinster coach Michael Cheika and his players are fully focussed on this weekend’s challenge of beating the Newport Gwent Dragons and getting their hands on the Magners League trophy after a long but rewarding campaign.

The Dragons have not beaten any of the Irish provinces since October 2004 and with Leinster turning the RDS into something of a fortress – they are on an unbeaten home run of nine games – the table toppers are hotly tipped to get the win they need on Saturday to end the title race.

Since losing 52-23 to the Llanelli Scarlets in October, Michael Cheika’s charges have beaten Connacht, Ulster, the Ospreys, Cardiff Blues, Glasgow Warriors and Munster in the league at the RDS, while they have also accounted for Leicester, Edinburgh and Toulouse in European action.

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Still, Cheika knows his men will face a difficult 80 minutes against a Dragons side who are scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table.

“I went down to see the Dragons against the Ospreys last weekend and we understand the importance of this week’s game. We’re concentrating on our opponents and we will be doing our best to get the right result,” he said.

“We have been voted the best supported team in the Magners League again this year and we would love to beat the Dragons for them (the supporters) on Saturday. But first things first, our focus is on the game and not the occasion.

“I feel that we’re in far better shape this year. We have definitely managed the players differently, in that we might have taken them out of training at particular times.

“Our mental and physical conditioning and player preparation – things like that have improved and though we’ve had some disappointment in recent years, if I didn’t learn from those experiences then they would have been wasted.

“We know that our consistent performances all year have gotten us this far.”

Leinster will be doubly determined to win the title on home soil as Saturday’s game will mark Keith Gleeson’s last outing at the RDS before he retires from the game.

The former Ireland flanker, who has 119 Leinster caps to his name, was part of the Leinster side that won the inaugural Celtic League back in 2001.

Cheika added: “There’s no turning back for Keith (regarding his retirement) and I’m sure that Saturday will be a massive game for him, particularly given how well he has played.

“We want him to finish on the right note as well, because it’s important that when players leave (that) they do so with good memories.

“He has played some awesome games for us and I actually think that he has gotten better in terms of his defence, his ball play and his distribution.”

It is hard to get away from the current speculation linking Declan Kidney with the Ireland coaching vacancy, and at Tuesday’s Leinster press conference Cheika agreed that his Munster counterpart would be the right man for the job.

“I think that he (Declan Kidney) should get it. He’s Irish, he has gotten his team to the pinnacle of the game in Europe and they have been consistent performers in the Magners League,” explained the Australian.

“He’s breeding Irish players and I’ve got a good rapport with Declan. If he does get it I’m sure that he will do a good job. I will do anything I can to get my players playing for their country.”