Bonus-point vic­tory could be cru­cial for Le­in­ster

Le­in­ster v Glas­gow War­riors RDS, to­mor­row, 1.0pm Sky Sports


Rarely do the stars align so that com­pli­men­tary re­port­ing is re­jected on all sides. Such is Le­in­ster ex­cel­lence un­der Stu­art Lan­caster’s coach­ing hand, and Leo Cullen’s over­all guid­ance, a jour­nal­is­tic fear ex­ists about turn­ing into cheer lead­ers and, in­ter­nally, the man­age­ment are keen to avoid an avalanche of words trum­pet­ing a re­turn to the heady days of 2011 and 2012 (when ac­tual stars were stitched be­low the harp).

The rea­sons are twofold: it’s Jan­uary and not a sin­gle tro­phy has been gath­ered since the 2014 Pro12 ti­tle.

Also, a weak­ened Glas­gow will come swing­ing into this Sun­day lunchtime con­test. No Finn Rus­sell, Stu­art Hogg, Zan­der Fager­son and Jonny Gray so noth­ing short of a bonus-point vic­tory for the home side will be deemed a suc­cess.

It’s a vi­tal re­turn be­cause the Pool can be won, and with it a home quar­ter-fi­nal, should Mont­pel­lier fail to hit the same chords against a well-stocked Ex­eter Chiefs at Sandy Park (3.15pm, Satur­day).

With Rob Kear­ney and Cian Healy benched, only Isa Nacewa, Johnny Sex­ton and Fer­gus McFad­den re­main from the golden era peak – the start­ing XV at Twick­en­ham in 2012 when the third Euro­pean ti­tle was cap­tured, this time at Ul­ster’s ex­pense.

For­eign re­cruits

With this new era comes con­stant is­sue over the se­lec­tion of three for­eign re­cruits. Em­ploy­ment law de­crees only two from three Aus­tralian or New Zealand pass­port hold­ers can fea­ture on Euro­pean match days.

James Lowe and Scott Fardy are world class per­form­ers that sim­ply have to fea­ture as Jami­son Gib­son-Park – who qual­i­fies for Ire­land be­fore the 2019 World Cup – makes way for Nick McCarthy as scrumhalf cover to Luke McGrath.

“It’s not ideal but we knew it as it un­folded and yeah, it’s just a di­men­sion to se­lec­tion that is a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent,” says coach Leo Cullen. “but at some point Jami­son be­comes qual­i­fied af­ter the three years, so that ob­vi­ously changes the dy­namic.”

Sean O’Brien’s hip surgery keeps him off the field but a ready made so­lu­tion – for Le­in­ster and Ire­land – ar­rives with the Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy one-two punch.

No prob­lem.

James Lowe’s se­lec­tion means no place for Jami­son Gib­son-Park

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