Isa Nacewa believes Leinster need to take a leaf out of Ireland’s book and shut down Leicester Tigers’ half-back pairing of Toby Flood and Ben Youngs when the Irish province and 2009 champions clash with the former double title winners at a sell-out Aviva Stadium on Saturday.
The teams know each other well – their 10 previous meetings have ended up with five wins apiece – but Leinster won the biggest of the lot when they beat the Tigers 19-16 in the final at Muarrayfield almost two years ago.
Now it is a repeat of that final with the winner earning priceless home advantage in the semi-finals against either Biarritz Olympique or Toulouse.
“The Leicester half backs are Leicester’s dangermen and we will need to keep a close eye on them on Saturday,” said Leinster’s powerhouse Fijian full back, who could have Ireland’s current half backs Jonny Sexton and Eoin Reddan on duty in front of him.
“There are some exciting match-ups right across the field and that is, without any sort of doubt, the case at half-back.
”Ireland were fantastic against England in the Six Nations and I am sure the battle at 9 and 10 will be the same once again. Hopefully our guys will have it in the back of their mind what they managed to do against England and replicate that against Leicester.”
In the wake of his side’s agonising last minute 24-23 defeat to Munster Nacewa knows the side must put the derby disappointment behind them and focus on the Leicester game.
“We have said all season that we are going to take things game by game so we have to make sure we do not dwell on this defeat and put it to the back of our minds,” he said.
“It was a tough game – exactly the sort we were expecting – and of course it is disappointing not to go into the quarter-finals with a win under your belt but it was good to have a run out as a team. Saturday is a huge game and it will be a fresh challenge, completely different to this last one.
“We all know about Leicester and they have great history in the tournament. They are top of the English Premiership and have experience throughout the team. They have a big set of forwards, and are probably one of the best packs around, so we know it is going to be a formidable challenge.”
Head coach Joe Schmidt added: “As the internationals come back and find their feet and get in sync with the squad once again, it was great for us and for them to get a game under our belts together and there is no better place to come for a heck of a game than Limerick.
“And, while we weren’t cohesive at times, I thought we played well. Our shape was possibly not as good as it was prior to the International period and that is something we need to try and get back.
“But Saturday is in a different competition and it was good to have a tough game and be put under pressure ahead of a Heineken Cup quarter-final.
“You really learn about yourself under pressure but, at the same time whatever happened against Munster, the Heineken Cup is entirely different so we are keeping things different and we will start a fresh ahead of the clash at the Aviva Stadium.
“We will sit down this week, build on this performance and look at the Leicester game but it is going to be a huge match in front of a packed stadium.”
Leinster team to face Leicester
Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Nathan Hines, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip
Jason Harris-Wright, Heinke van der Merwe, Stan Wright, Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden
Louis Deacon returns for Leicester to partner Steve Mafi in the second row, while Boris Stankovich replaces the suspended Marcos Ayerza in the front row to complete two changes to the team that beat Harlequins in last week’s Aviva Premiership match-up. George Chuter and Dan Cole make up the rest of the all-international front row, and Anthony Allen and Manu Tuilagi continue their partnership in the midfield. Jordan Crane is preferred to Thomas ‘the Tank’ Waldrom, who is named on the bench.
Tigers team to face Leicester
Scott Hamilton; Horacio Agulla, Manu Tuilagi, Anthony Allen, Alesana Tuilagi; Toby Flood, Ben Youngs; Boris Stankovich, George Chuter, Dan Cole, Louis Deacon, Steve Mafi, Tom Croft, Craig Newby (capt), Jordan Crane
Rob Hawkins, Julian White, Martin Castrogiovanni, Ed Slater, Thomas Waldrom, James Grindal, Jeremy Staunton, Matt Smith