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Leavy: We Have To Play Our Best Game And Leave No Stone Unturned

Leavy: We Have To Play Our Best Game And Leave No Stone Unturned

In-form Leinster flanker Dan Leavy believes the Scarlets will be full of confidence when they come to the Aviva Stadium to face the tournament favourites in Saturday’s opening Champions Cup semi-final (kick-off 3.30pm).

The Welsh region and their supporters will have fond memories of the Dublin 4 venue having won the GUINNESS PRO12 final there last year, overcoming Munster 46-22. The Scarlets reached the decider after defeating semi-final opponents Leinster at the RDS, a recent, painful reminder of how dangerous Wayne Pivac’s side can be.

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“They’re a quality outfit. We didn’t bring our A-game to (last season’s PRO12) semi-final and we paid,” admitted Leinster back rower Dan Leavy, speaking ahead of the European showdown this weekend.

“They are littered with Welsh internationals. You throw in a Tadhg Beirne and a few others around the park and they are a serious handful. They are going to come over confident as well. They have no fear here (in Dublin). It wasn’t that we were looking at them differently (last year). It’s just we didn’t step up the way we should have and it cost us the season.

“The Scarlets team that played (against Edinburgh last weekend) and the Scarlets team that will play against us are completely different. But they will be fired up and they will be coming to the Aviva with a lot of confidence so we have to be ready for them.”

While it will be the Scarlets again on Saturday afternoon, ultimately the focus for Leavy is on the team playing well rather than getting hung up on notions of revenge. The real prize on offer is Bilbao.

“We’re in finals rugby here. It’s all about going out and playing the best game you can play. I think if we do that, and play the best rugby we can play, we’ll be in with a good shot,” said the 23-year-old Ireland international.

“We are very hungry. We’ve been saying it for a few seasons now. There was such success here at Leinster – three Heineken Cups in four years. There’s been a bit of a lull since then, but I think the quality of young players and the experience of some of the older guys meshes together really well now. We have a good opportunity to take something but we have to play our best game and leave no stone unturned.”

Speaking to the media earlier this week, Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster gave a positive update on the fitness of Robbie Henshaw, with the Ireland centre returning to full training earlier than expected after he picked up a shoulder injury on Six Nations duty.

“Robbie’s in better condition than I’ve ever seen him,” said Lancaster. “He’s achieved his quickest speeds, he’s done his best fitness test, he looks lean and fit. He’s such a good player, and he’s been in every meeting. I’m absolutely certain he’ll be up to speed.”

Cathal Marsh has also returned to full training following a toe injury, while experienced back rower Sean O’Brien was removed at half-time against Benetton Rugby last Saturday night and will be further assessed this week ahead of selection.

Rory O’Loughlin was also withdrawn from the match against the Italians for a head injury assessment and will enter the return-to-play protocols. Jordan Larmour reported no issues after making his return from a calf injury and will again train fully this week.

Jack Conan, who injured his knee recently against the Ospreys, will look to resume training this week, and Luke McGrath (ankle) and Rhys Ruddock (hamstring) will both be assessed further ahead of selection for the Champions Cup semi-final. Richardt Strauss picked up a calf injury in the defeat to Benetton and has been ruled out of this weekend’s clash.

Lancaster also spoke about what captain Isa Nacewa and his ability to have a big impact on a game, wherever he plays. “He played on the wing when we beat Exeter back-to-back and Robbie and Garry (Ringrose) played in the centre. I thought Isa, in particular, was outstanding in that Saracens game.

“It was probably one of the best games I’ve seen him play since I’ve been here. But equally, he was as good in the Exeter game on the wing. That’s the advantage of (having) Isa Nacewa in your squad.”

Join the roar at the Champions Cup semi-final between Leinster and the Scarlets at the Aviva Stadium this Saturday (kick-off 3.15pm). Tickets are available online from ticketmaster.ie.