Every point counts as Leinster take aim at JJ Hanrahan and Saints

first_img 14,890 Views By Sean Farrell Share Tweet Email ‘I’m giving thought to everywhere’: Move abroad still among options for Jamie HeaslipWe’ve revamped the Score Centre on the The42 app Updated at 08.00THERE IS NO Champions Cup pool more delicately poised going into this weekend’s pivotal third round of games than Pool 4.Top meets bottom when Leinster visit Northampton at Franklin’s Gardens tonight (19.45, BT Sport), yet only two points separate the sides.“So literally every little thing matters, every point does count and we have to make sure we realise that,” said Leinster head coach Leo Cullen after naming his team early before flying to England.“We’re going out to win the game, clearly, but when you’re in the situation you need to make sure you can get what you can out of it.” Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHOA win would be more than welcome. Leinster haven’t experienced victory on the road in Europe since Ian Madigan kicked seven penalties in Castres in 2014. Six defeats and a draw have followed since.However, there’s no better example of a good salvage job well done than Leinster’s last outing in Europe, when they fought back late on to claim a losing bonus point despite being overpowered for an hour in Montpellier. Cullen had a wry smile as he cast his mind back to a case study of what can go wrong when the foot eases off the pedal. It was his last season as a player and he’s pondered the different paths his final lap might have gone.“This fixture, three years ago when we put 40 points on Northampton over there and then to lose the following week, and just the knock-on effect that had.“We had a bonus point (position) towards the end and Jamie Elliott got that breakaway try to deny us a bonus point which meant all of a sudden we had to play away in a quarter-final against Toulon — which happened to be my last game of European rugby I’m afraid.” Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHOLeinster will have to claim these valuable points without Jonathan Sexton of course, but Robbie Henshaw and Sean O’Brien have returned from the injuries that kept them from facing the Wallabies for Ireland.In Sexton’s place, Joey Carbery will get another big chance to shine in the number 10 jersey, but it’s the solid choices of a game manager that Cullen has demanded first and foremost from the Athy man. He’s no Johnny Sexton, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing for the eardrums of those closest to him:“He’s not as grumpy as Johnny, that’s for sure,” joked O’Brien.They’re different types of players, they’re different people. For a young guy he’s extremely calm and composed.“He’s directed us around well this week and in previous weeks too. He’s an excellent player, he has a bit of everything.“He’s a long way to go still, I think, to being the finished article, but he has a lot of very good attributes and he’s a great lad as well.” Source: James Crombie/INPHOCaptain Isa Nacewa will have the kicking tee to ease some pressure from Carbery’s shoulders and outside him will be – with Jared Payne on the long-term injured list – the duo likely to form Ireland’s midfield in the Six Nations: Robbie Henshaw and Garry Ringrose.Northampton will have a familiar face tasked with unlocking the partnership, Kerry’s JJ Hanrahan giving the midfield a playmaking presence alongside the power of Luther Burrell. That’s as much young Irish midfield talent you would dare hope for in an inter-provincial clash, never mind a seismic Friday night Champions Cup match. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHOWhile Saints coach Jim Mallinder has had to hold heavy hitters like Dylan Hartley and Teimana Harrison in reserve – not to mention George North after his worrying concussion last weekend – Cullen has selected a team full of pace and energy in a bid to start fast and further dent the hosts’ confidence.The head coach insists internationals Zane Kirchner and Mike McCarthy were fit and available, but he has instead gone without a recognised second row among the replacements (though Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan have operated there) and given the excellent and very in-form Adam Byrne his European debut.“It’s great to see Adam and his development this year. He came through a number of years ago and just got an unlucky run of injuries. He broke his leg, came back and broke his other leg. So he  was a bit stunted in development, but he works really hard and I’m delighted with the way he’s progressed this season. He’s fully deserving of his opportunity.”Having suffered in last year’s tournament, Leinster have an excitement opportunity as a collective tonight: to grab control of Pool 4. Northampton Saints:15. Ben Foden14. Ken Pisi13. Luther Burrell12. JJ Hanrahan11. Jamie Elliott10. Stephen Myler9. Nic Groom1. Alex Waller2. Mikey Haywood3. Paul Hill4. Michael Paterson5. Courtney Lawes6. Jamie Gibson7. Tom Wood (captain)8. Louis PicamolesReplacements:16. Dylan Hartley17. Ethan Waller18. Gareth Denman19. Api Ratuniyarawa20. Teimana Harrison21. Tom Kessell22. George Pisi23. Ahsee TualaLeinster:15. Rob Kearney14. Adam Byrne13. Garry Ringrose12. Robbie Henshaw11. Isa Nacewa (captain)10. Joey Carbery9. Luke McGrath1. Jack McGrath2. Sean Cronin3. Tadhg Furlong4. Devin Toner5. Hayden Triggs6. Sean O’Brien7. Josh van der Flier8. Jamie HeaslipReplacements:16. James Tracy17. Cian Healy18. Michael Bent19. Rhys Ruddock20. Jack Conan21. Jamison Gibson-Park22. Ross Byrne23. Rory O’LoughlinThe42 is on Instagram! Tap the button below on your phone to follow us! Short URL https://the42.ie/3128463 Friday 9 Dec 2016, 8:00 AM 21 Comments Follow us: the42.ie ‘Every point counts’ as Leinster take aim at JJ Hanrahan and Saints Pool 4 is extremely tight as it kicks off the pivotal Champions Cup back-to-backs. Dec 9th 2016, 8:00 AM Tweet thisShare on FacebookEmail this articlelast_img