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Leinster 'covering all areas' in their Euro double quest

CHAMPOIONS CUP SPOTLIGHT: Leinster flyhalf Ross Byrne has labelled Saturday’s sell-out Champions Cup semifinal against Premiership leaders Northampton Saints at the 82,300-capacity Croke Park as “huge”.

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The Irish international is fully aware of what a privilege it is to play at the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association and for it to stage such a major fixture in the rugby calendar.

“It’s obviously the semifinal of the Champions Cup, which is a very special competition, and then also the fact that it’s in Croke Park as well is huge,” he said.

“I’ve been there a fair few times and obviously it’s a pretty iconic stadium, so it’s very special that we get the chance to play there.”

Byrne and his teammates were stunned that tickets for Leinster’s fourth successive EPCR semifinal were snapped up so quickly.

“We were shocked to be honest,” he said.

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“It’s brilliant – it just shows how great our supporters are, the excitement around them. It probably just shows how special a stadium Croke Park is too, so hopefully it’s a great occasion.”

Byrne, who has amassed 346 points in only 46 EPCR appearances, is expecting Northampton Saints to provide a big test on Saturday, even though Leinster have won nine of their previous 10 meetings in the competition.

He said of the free-wheeling Premiership front runners: “They’ve been brilliant. They’re not top of the Premiership for no reason.

“As a club, they’ve great history and at the moment they’re playing great stuff, so it’s going to be a seriously tough challenge.

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“Obviously, we pay attention to what they do. I suppose we’re covering all areas. We know they’re going to throw things at us that we’ve never seen, so we’re just trying to prepare ourselves as best as possible.”

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Byrne knows there is still much to do if Leinster are going to equal Stade Toulousain’s record of five Champions Cup titles, even though they hammered defending champions Stade Rochelais 40-13 in the last round.

He commented: “Obviously, it was a great win, but ultimately it was just a quarterfinal. We are under no illusions how tough a game it’s going to be this Saturday.”

That was the last time that many of the Leinster squad played, since they were rested for successive heavy United Rugby Championship defeats in South Africa to Lions and Stormers the past two weekends.

But assistant coach Robin McBryde is not too concerned, explaining: “It’s a fine line between being battle-hardened and battle-weary.

“A lot of those players would have played a high number of minutes during the Six Nations, so the result on Saturday will dictate whether we got things right or not.

“Each individual is different. Some players, especially the big-game players, aren’t interested in some of the week-in, week-out stuff. They want to be on the big stage. To them, the level of opposition warrants a reaction from them and they want to be tested against the best.”

Leinster will have Ireland centre Garry Ringrose and back Jimmy O’Brien available for selection on Saturday, Ringrose after a shoulder injury and O’Brien after a neck injury.

Source: @ChampionsCup

 

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