Leinster determined to deliver more of the same against Bath

Leo Cullen stresses the need to play through the 80 minutes

Bath v Leinster, Recreation Ground, Saturday, 1pm - Live on Virgin Media, Channel 4 & BT Sport

Leo Cullen outlined the mission statement ahead of Leinster's final Champions Cup pool match, one that focused exclusively on a sharply attuned mindset to complement the mechanics of the game plan.

Leinster’s head coach explained: “Just play well, get close to playing to our potential is always the big thing for us and see where you go because you’ve got to be able to adapt to the game, the opposition, the referee and conditions.”

He spoke about players being committed and unselfish, playing with a smile and bringing energy to the performance.


“The big thing for us, it’s very similar to the game last week, it’s just to make sure we keep hammering away in the game regardless, sticking to what we do well, in terms of our attack, defence and set-piece game.

“Bath, an English team at home, will have a strong set-piece and a good kicking game and will try to put pressure on us so it’s making sure we’re aware of the threats that we have.”

Cullen also stressed the need to play through the 80 minutes, something that Leinster didn’t do in the first meeting between the teams.

He has opted to "freshen up" the team from last week, Robbie Henshaw, Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath and Michael Ala'alatoa promoted to the starting side, with Ciaran Frawley, Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park dropping to the bench.

James Lowe suffered a thigh strain on Tuesday and will be out for a couple of weeks. James Ryan, a late withdrawal ahead of the Montpellier match, might have made it but the decision to extend his rehab by a week was simplified by the quality of Josh Murphy's display in deputising.

Cullen said that Tadhg Furlong (calf) "doesn't seem to be too bad, so hopefully he'll be up and running for round one of the Six Nations; he should be good to go hopefully, barring any setbacks."

Rhys Ruddock was ill in the early part of the week. Ryan Baird and Vakh Abdaladze have been drafted into the replacements.

Really sharp

The Leinster coach was asked about Jordan Larmour.

“I thought Jordan was really, really sharp (against Montpellier) but it’s something we’ve seen in training quite a bit as well.

“We touched on Garry (Ringrose) quite a bit as well after the game. The two of them were the two standouts from a training point of view, looking really sharp, making things happen. That’s when Jordan is at his best, very, very instinctive, getting lots of touches on the ball, hungry for work.

“And so hopefully we’ll see more of the same. He (Larmour) was unlucky to go off at half-time, a little bit of a precaution there, but thankfully he has come through the week okay. He had been carrying a niggle earlier in the season which probably just takes that a little bit of an edge off him, but he seems to have that under control now.”

Cullen smiled when asked about Leinster being linked with Munster's South African second row Jason Jenkins.

“We don’t normally comment on this speculation, but I can see how it would make sense (to) certain people’s minds, for sure. I know that Johann talks very, very highly of him. He is a big man. We don’t bring a huge amount of guys in from outside,” before concluding that they would comment further if there was anything official to report.

Musical chairs

There's an element of musical chairs about the Bath team –, eight are retained from the defeat in La Rochelle and of those three swap positions. Tom Prydie switches wings from right to left, Max Clark moves from inside to outhalf centre, while Cameron Redpath will wear the number 12 rather than 10 jersey.

The 20-year-old outhalf Orlando Bailey was called up to England's Six Nations squad and many predict a promising future for the Bath pivot. There are five changes in the pack, including the return of English international flanker Sam Underhill.

If Leinster retain the hard-nosed focus and quality of their performance from the Montpellier match then there is little doubt that the visitors will be celebrating a desired outcome.

BATH: R McConnochie; G Hamer-Webb, M Clark, C Redpath, T Prydie; O Bailey, B Spencer; A Cordwell, J du Toit, W Stuart; W Spencer, C Ewels (capt); T Ellis, S Underhill, J Bayliss.

Replacements: T Doughty, W Vaughan, J Jonker, J McNally, M Williams, J Simpson, M Ojomoh, W Butt.

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, R Henshaw, J O'Brien; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; A Porter, R Kelleher, M Ala'alatoa; R Molony, J Murphy; C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan.

Replacements: D Sheehan, C Healy, V Abdaladze, R Baird, M Deegan, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, C Frawley.

Referee: A Piardi (Italy).

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer