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London Wasps vs Leinster Rugby
Adams Park, High Wycombe,
Friday, 5th April 2013, 20:00

I often admire clever word play on the forum. One I liked recently was Oh Ooh We're in the Amlin now. Whether you blame poor early season form, the group of death, a late line-out call in Clermont or Racing Metro's under 7's, the fact of the matter is (ohoohoh) we are in the Amlin now.

Having qualified from the Heineken cup rather than through the pools of the Amlin itself, we are automatically away in the quarter finals and this Friday we visit High Wycombe to take on premiership team London Wasps. Both teams are coming into this fixture off the back of a defeat. For Wasps, losing to premiership table toppers Saracens was their fourth loss in a row, moving them down to the lower half of their league table. Leinster's loss to Ulster, on the other hand, ended a nine match winning run, which sees them still very much in contention for the top four play-offs in the RaboDirect Pro 12.

Wasps qualified for the knock-out stages of the Amlin having topped a pool containing Bayonne, NG Dragons and Italian side Rugby Mogliano with five wins and one draw . In doing soLeinster's European form this season has not been so good. Failure to score bonus points in the early rounds and back to back defeats to French giants Clermont left Leinster on a pool total of 20 - a total which would have seen them qualify for the knock out stages in 8 of the last 10 years. Despite finishing strongly with two bonus point wins in our last two games we lost out on tries scored to our interprovincial rivals Munster who grabbed the final qualifying spot with a bonus point victory against an understrength Racing Metro.

Both Wasps and Leinster have proud European traditions and have previously won European cups. Wasps have played a part in our history in that competition and indeed provided the opposition for some memorable moments in our first cup winning season. Who can forget the double chip from Drico to score a try in the first half of our home pool encounter as part of a six try rout, which signalled to many the intent of this team for the season? The return fixture is often remembered for the wrong reasons with the game controversially going to uncontested scrums after Leinster's loss of CJ Van der Linde and Stan Wright to injury. Leinster hung on for a losing bonus point. The teams have also met in the knock-out stages, with the High Wycombe side ending Leinster's European season in the quarter final two years previously.

Since then, Wasps have become challenge cup regulars, appearing in the competition each season, albeit using the back door that we ourselves are using this season on one occasion. The furthest they have progressed in this period is the semi-final in 2010, exiting the last two years at the quarter final stage. Leinster on the other hand have scaled the heights in those intervening years. Going out to eventual champions Toulouse at the semi final stage in 2010 and then going on to win back to back Heineken cups. This season, however, Wasps welcome what are debutants to this competition and must be seen as an unknown quantity.

There is a divide in the support as to the importance or lack thereof of this competition and how the players feel about the competition is a hot topic of discussion. They are professionals and as such are expected to give their all to the cause but, given the dizzy heights of the last few years can they really rise for what many view as a nothing competition? Also, having lost out in the Rabo final the last three years should our sole focus not be there and, for the emerging talent, on the B&I cup.

If the team named is any indication, however, then Leinster mean business. Internationals Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip return alongside Gordan D'Arcy (illness) and Fergus McFadden (Injury) to join a team including the in form Ian Madigan making his 75th Leinster appearance. Dave Kearney also reaches a milestone on Friday with 50 appearances for his native province. I have no doubt this Leinster team will give it their all as will the travelling support. Few players or fans could deny the attraction of a Dublin final should we make it that far. Even though that would be in the less familiar Friday night curtain raiser. With strong teams named and notwithstanding the big names missing on both sides in O'Driscoll and Haskell to name but two, the expected 1000 Leinster fans will hopefully witness our first European victory away to Wasps and see us continue on the road to silverware and maybe even a double...

Team Lineups

London Wasps

Leinster Rugby
Teams Elliot Daly
15 Rob Kearney
Christian Wade
14 Dave Kearney
Andrea Masi
13 Fergus McFadden
Chris Bell
12 Gordon D'Arcy
Tom Varndell
11 Isa Nacewa
Nicky Robinson
10 Ian Madigan
Joe Simpson
9 Isaac Boss

Zak Taulafo
1 Cian Healy
T Rhys Thomas
2 Richardt Strauss
Phil Swainston
3 Mike Ross
Tom Palmer
4 Leo Cullen (C)
Marco Wentzel
5 Devin Toner
Joe Launchbury
6 Kevin McLaughlin
Sam Jones
7 Sean O'Brien
Ashley Johnson
8 Jamie Heaslip

Replacements Tom Lindsay
16 Sean Cronin
Tim Payne
17 Jack McGrath
William Taylor
18 Jamie Hagan
Jonathan Poff
19 Quinn Roux
Billy Vunipola
20 Shane Jennings
Charlie Davies
21 John Cooney
Stephen Jones
22 Andrew Goodman
Hugo Southwell
23 Andrew Conway

by Yvonne Kelly, © 2013-04-05

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