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Cheika Not Looking Beyond ‘Quins Clash

Cheika Not Looking Beyond ‘Quins Clash

A wry smile broke out on the face of Leinster coach Michael Cheika when the semi-final pairings were confirmed at Tuesday’s Heineken Cup semi-final draw at Murrayfield. A provincial derby is in the offing if Leinster and Munster can beat their respective quarter-final opponents, Harlequins and the Ospreys.

Leinster made a stunning start to this season’s Heineken Cup, securing bonus point wins over London Wasps and Edinburgh before they stuttered slightly either side of Christmas.

They slipped up away to Castres Olympique and Wasps but last Sunday’s 12-3 defeat of Edinburgh at the RDS copperfastened top spot in Pool 2 for them and a sixth-place seeding for the quarter-finals.

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Their quarter-final clash with Harlequins, who lost recently away to Ulster, has been confirmed for Sunday, April 12 (kick-off 3.30pm) with the venue yet to be decided.

Speaking after Tuesday’s draw, Leinster coach Michael Cheika said: “It’s a bit too far ahead for us to be worrying about the semi-finals, but we’re just delighted to be in the competition.

“All of our concentration in this tournament will be on Harlequins and I’m sure that they will fancy their chances against us.

“English teams seem to see Leinster as a side they can beat and we’ll be doing our best to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

With injuries and suspension disrupting the Magners League champions in recent weeks, Cheika is thankful of having a short break now as the Six Nations looms on the horizon.

Leinster are back in Magners League action on February 21 when they visit the Scarlets and they will hope to improve or at least maintain their current position of third in the table in the lead-up to their European quarter-final.

The carrot of a potential semi-final derby against old foes Munster and the chance to gain revenge for their 2006 semi-final defeat to the same opposition at Lansdowne Road will undoubtedly add to Leinster’s motivation.

“We know that we have to improve if we want to be there (semi-finals). In saying that, the potential reward for our supporters of having a home draw is a boost,” Cheika added.

“We have shown a lot of character and guts over the last few weeks and we will look to improve.

“I feel that, as a foreigner, when you get to this stage of the season you are representing the people of Ireland and it’s great that Munster and Connacht are also involved in the final stages of the European competitions.

“We’re conscious of the fact that we represent a lot of people around and outside the province.

“We’ll hopefully get another massive crowd in London (for the Harlequins game) and I’m sure that it will be a really good match. There’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.”