Speaking ahead of Sunday’s Heineken Cup quarter-final against Harlequins, Leinster coach Michael Cheika said that his squad are ready for a physical encounter against a side he has great respect for.
This will be Leinster’s sixth Heineken Cup quarter-final appearance and they are bidding to reach the tournament’s last-four for the first time since 2006.
Three years ago they made the semi-finals courtesy of a thrilling 41-35 win at Toulouse and they are likely to need a similarly inspirational triumph this weekend when they visit Harlequins at a packed-out Stoop.
Head coach Michael Cheika said: “Obviously it’s a big week in our calendar and a match that we have been looking forward to since January.
“We started our preparation out yesterday (Tuesday) with a bit nervousness, but we built up a bit better and stronger today (Wednesday) and hopefully we’ll keep building until Sunday.
“Preparation isn’t any more difficult (after the Munster defeat),” he added, refering to last weekend’s 22-5 Thomond Park reversal.
“There’s the disappointment factor that you have to leave behind, but you must ensure that you take the failings from our performance down in Limerick and improve them because we’re going into a very similar environment.
“It’s a big game in someone else’s arena, so we’ve got to make sure that we take stock of the failings that we may have had and add them to the positive things that we had in that game and take that to London.
“It’s very important for us to keep a very strong concentration on our own performance and not worry about the extra factors.
“We have been in this position before and we’ve got to use that experience to make sure we’re very focused on the day, not so much (worry) about what Harlequins are going to do.”
At the moment, Cheika’s focus is on the make-up of his matchday squad as they still have a number of players on their injury list.
Brian O’Driscoll looks set to make it but Luke Fitzgerald (shoulder) and Bernard Jackman (knee) remain doubtful, and key prop CJ Van Der Linde has been ruled out.
Cheika explained: “CJ is not going to make it this week. His (toe) injury is slightly different to the previous one.
“It’s the same type of area, but it’s not as serious. We’re hoping that within a couple of weeks he might make his return.
“Brian trained pretty well today and he has a good chance of being fit. Luke was only partially in training today, so we’ll make a final decision on him on Friday.
“Bernard hasn’t trained this week and he’s probably more of a doubt than the others. We’ll check him on Friday and assess exactly where he’s at with his swollen knee and make a decision then.
“Our medical staff is working around the clock to try to take down some of the swelling which is unrelated to his other injury.”
With Leinster’s front row resources stretched, Cheika admitted he may well have to call on former Springbok Ollie Le Roux, who is back in Dublin providing cover after proving such a hit last season.
“Ollie has a lot of experience. He knows our system and he certainly doesn’t lack confidence, so I’m sure if we decide to put him into the fray that he will be more than capable of fulfilling the role that I might ask him to fill,” the Australian added.
Riding high in second place in the Guinness Premiership, Harlequins will be confident that home advantage can help them get past Leinster and into their first ever Heineken Cup semi-final.
‘Quins have played in two quarter-finals in the past, losing both to Leicester (1996) and Toulouse (1997).
Cheika knows tournament records will count for little during Sunday’s 80 minutes – it is all about what happens on the day and Harlequins are a team he rates highly.
“They’re a very good team. They have shown that in their position in the Premiership which is justifying exactly how they’ve played over the last season, particularly over the last three months where they have gone on a great run.
“It’s going to be a big test for us over there because playing away from home any time in Europe is difficult.
“We understand that the focus is ourselves and we can’t allow factors like – where we’re playing or their form there – to enter our heads.
“They have lots of pace all over the park, at 9, 10, centres, wings, full-back, back row. They have a very strong back row and if you play into them then you’re playing into a very strong area.
“I would say they’re a very underestimated tight five. I have watched a number of their games and their tight five has been impeccable in my opinion.
“They played in Bath last weekend and their coach (Dean Richards) obviously said to them, ‘this is the kind of pack that everyone in England measures themselves against, so go and get ’em’.
“They have an impressive ability to play in different parts of the field with a lot of brains in the middle of the field in (Nick) Easter, (Danny) Care and (Nick) Evans and a lot of grunt up front. You’ve got to play well to beat that.”