Leinster can stop Bath running
Bath know they will be up against it if they are to triumph at the home of three-time European champions Leinster, as the West County side go in search of first semi-final among Europe’s elite in nine years.
Both sides will welcome back up to five (Bath) and six (Leinster) internationals respectively, with some of the stars of England and Ireland’s Six Nations campaigns chomping at the bit for a return to action.
Mike Ford’s side warmed up with a polished five-try performance against London Welsh in the Premiership but the head coach will be confident they can improve again.
Indeed, he has hinted at a return to a more free-flowing, running game with the improving conditions; especially now that he can once more call on the services of George Ford, Jonathan Joseph, Dave Attwood, Anthony Watson, Henry Thomas and David Wilson.
Ford and Joseph were two of the top performers in the Six Nations and will look to bring that confidence and link-up play back to their club on Saturday.
Equally, Leinster will have a clutch of Irish performers eager to take their winning form into this one, with Rob Kearney, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Jack McGrath and Mike Ross all likely to feature for the first time since Ireland’s memorable day in Murrayfield.
Indeed, having welcomed back a further half dozen internationals in the exhilarating 34-34 draw with PRO12 table-toppers Glasgow last weekend, Matt O’Connor’s biggest headache may well be who to leave out on Saturday.
Bath have not enjoyed success at European rugby’s top table since they were crowned champions in 1998.
Leinster on the other hand, can still call on the spine of the team which secured the most recent of their three titles in 2012, with the notable exceptions of Brian O’Driscoll, Isa Nacewa and Johnny Sexton.
However, the experience and know-how of seasoned campaigners such as Heaslip, O’Brien, Cian Healy and Eoin Reddan should be enough to see off a Bath side full of attacking brio, but who will be without their first choice props.
Bath suffered three successive defeats before getting back on track, with last week’s win following up victory over Sale, while Leinster have struggled to find any real consistency all season long.
However, with up to 12 Ireland internationals likely to feature for Leinster, it’s difficult to see beyond a home win. Leinster -7 on the three-way handicap is available at 7/5.
The match kicks off at 3.15pm on Saturday, April 4th at Aviva Stadium, Dublin