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Leinster look to channel their anger and frustration into a complete performance

Leinster are one of those teams that you don’t want to meet when they’re angry. Judging by Leo Cullen’s demeanour at yesterday’s online press conference, there’s a sense of injustice around UCD that has been simmering since Christmas and came to the boil this week.

s the coach said, there are two storylines ongoing at the moment. The off-pitch Covid-19 saga and the on-pitch season.

And, while he has made his thoughts clear on the first issue with comments carried elsewhere in this edition, he is hoping that the players can put their frustration to good use against Montpellier and Bath in the next seven days to leave them in an advantageous position at the end of the pool stages.

Cullen is correct when he says that the decision to award the first fixture between these teams as a 28-0 Montpellier win is a decision that will likely cost his side a home run through the knockouts, a prospect that brings with it commercial and competitive benefits.

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But when you cast a glance over the team he has picked for this game, it’s hard to feel overly sorry for the boys in blue who have international class across the match-day 23.

Then, when one takes a look at the opposition roster it becomes clear that Leinster will get back on track in some style at the RDS tomorrow.

This will be a lunchtime feast.

Sure, there will be some rust to work out, but with pack capable of mixing it on both sides of the ball and a creative backline ready to run Montpellier ragged this could get ugly for the French side.

Philippe Saint-André has had his own Covid issues in recent weeks. 

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The men from the Cote d’Azur have not played since December 27 and he makes 15 changes to his team, bringing in three teenagers including Drogheda’s Karl Martin who moved to France after being overlooked for a place in the Leinster Academy.

He’s up against Ciarán Frawley at inside centre, one of three uncapped players in Leinster’s 23-man squad.

Robbie Henshaw misses out after missing some training this week, but the Skerries native steps in with a remit to broaden the home side’s attack.

With a six-day turnaround between this game and the visit to Bath, Ross Byrne is preferred to Johnny Sexton who will make his first appearance since November 14 off the bench.

The Lion will be ravenous for action after such a long lay-off.

Leinster say they have learnt from their drop-off in standards in the home win over Bath, they’ve been talking up the standards they’ve hit at training and are ready to put it all into a performance.

“We want to put in an 80-minute performance and from our last game that was the big frustration. That’s the focus,” Cullen said.

“We want an 80-minute performance and we’ve an experienced 23 there, hopefully the guys from the bench will bring real impact because it will be important.

“Montpellier are doing their thing in the tournament … (but we) we lost 28-0 so we’ve a bit of catching up to do.

“We’ll see how we go but making sure we have respect for the opposition on the day.

“We try to focus on ourselves more so and deliver a big Leinster performance in front of the people who have been lucky enough to get their tickets through the lottery – apologies to those who missed out in the lottery. Hopefully we’ll get a motivated bunch of people, players and supporters from the very start.”

Verdict: Leinster

LEINSTER – H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, C Frawley, J O’Brien; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; A Porter, R Kelleher, T Furlong; R Molony, J Ryan (capt); C Doris, J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: D Sheehan, C Healy, M Ala’alatoa, R Ruddock, M Deegan, L McGrath, J Sexton, J Lowe.
MONTPELLIER – A Bevia; P Lucas, T Darmon, K Martin, J Capelli, J Vici; L Foursans, G Aprassidze; M Nariashvili, G Guirado (capt), H Thomas; T Duguid, M Capelli; M Dakuwaqa, F Verhaeghe, M Tauleigne. Reps: V Giusicelli, R Rodgers, T Lamositele, A Becognee, A Eymeri, P Vallél, N Janse van Rensburg.

REF – Wayne Barnes (England)

Leinster v Montpellier,
Live, BT Sport, tomorrow, 1.0 

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