The Leinster bandwagon rolls into Wales this weekend as the leaders of the Rabo Pro12 travel to Cardiff to face the Blues on Saturday evening, kick off 6.15pm.
Having escaped Connacht with a narrow 15-13 last weekend, Joe Schmidt has recalled a number of front line internationals who will be led by Jamie Heaslip, who will captain the side in the absence of Leo Cullen.
Along with Heaslip, Mike Ross, Seán O’Brien, Cian Healy, Rob Kearney, Eoin Reddan and Jonathan Sexton all come back into a strong looking side with the likes of Fionn Carr, Isa Nacewa and Rhys Ruddock kept on the bench.
That two point win against Connacht will have sharpened the collective minds of Leinster and forwards coach Jono Gibbes is expecting a better performance from the Heineken Cup champions on Saturday evening.
“It would be nice not to grind out games but close them out once we get in good positions. Getting results and still you have work to do is a good place to be.
“We are a little bit disjointed in terms of selection with various unavailability so I think the next couple of weeks it will important we get people together and get some momentum.
“I think Cardiff are like us in that not everyone is available. I don’t think the Wales v Australia game came at the right time for them.
“But when they can get everyone on the park together there’s a nucleus that have played for the Blues for a number of years so they know what needs to be done.
“I think they are pretty experienced and hardened and they have got a combination of knowing what they are going to do on the field. That makes them dangerous.”
While Leinster continued their winning ways against Connacht, Cardiff have been blowing hot and cold this season. The last time they played Leinster Cardiff were thrashed 52-9 and coach Justin Burnell knows the task that awaits his team.
Our first match at the Cardiff City Stadium in 2012 couldn’t come much tougher than against Leinster,” he said.
“They are the Heineken Cup champions and to me the standard bearers of northern hemisphere rugby.”
“They are a star-studded outfit, with a fantastic mixture and when I watched their game against Bath it seems that every time they had the ball they looked threatening.
“They score a lot of tries, as do we, so there are two teams who try to play an expansive game. It should be an entertaining encounter.”
On paper it should be a cracking game. Both sides want to get their hands on the ball and play a heads up style of rugby. The breakdown, as always, will be key. One would think that Leinster will improve from their last performance against Connacht and with that in mind Leinster are selected to win by over 12.5 pts which should be backed on Betfair.
Cardiff (v Leinster): Gavin Henson; Leigh Halfpenny, Casey Laulala, Gavin Evans, Tom James; Dan Parks, Lloyd Williams; Gethin Jenkins, Marc Breeze, Scott Andrews; Bradley Davies, Michael Paterson; Maama Molitika, Sam Warburton (capt), Xavier Rush. Replacements: Rhys Williams, John Yapp, Sam Hobbs, Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Richie Rees, Ceri Sweeney, Richard Mustoe
Leinster (v Cardiff): Rob Kearney; Dave Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Conway; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross; Damian Browne, Devin Toner; Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (capt). Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Rhys Ruddock, Leo Auva’a, Isaac Boss, Isa Nacewa, Fionn Carr.