/ Rugby

Quinlan expects Leinster backlash

Updated: Friday, 01 May 2009 16:33

Alan Quinlan knows past results will only spur Leinster on tomorrow at Croke Park
Alan Quinlan knows past results will only spur Leinster on tomorrow at Croke Park

Munster flanker Alan Quinlan is braced for a Leinster backlash in tomorrow's all-Ireland Heineken Cup semi-final at Croke Park.

Munster thumped Leinster 30-6 in the 2006 semi-finals and won both of this season's Magners League meetings en route to clinching the title.

But Quinlan, one of Munster's seven-strong British and Irish Lions contingent, insisted those results will mean nothing when battle commences in front of an expected world record crowd in Dublin.

‘We may have beaten them already this year but that will count for nothing - if anything it will give them impetus,’ said Quinlan, who was man of the match in Munster's victory over Toulouse in last year's final.

‘They will feel they owe us big time for those defeats this year and because last time we played them in the semi-finals we won so there is huge motivation for them and they'll work off that.

‘Games between the Irish sides have that little extra edge. The scorelines in both matches this year do not reflect how little there is between the sides and the same applies to that Lansdowne Road semi-final.’

The previous world record crowd for a club rugby match of 81,600 was set at Twickenham in last season's Guinness Premiership final - but a sold-out Croke Park will beat that tomorrow night.

Munster's fanatical following is famous but Leinster's support has grown in recent years, to the point where they filled a whole end at The Stoop and created a carnival atmosphere for their quarter-final win over Harlequins.

‘It is a game I'm really looking forward to, there is huge talk throughout the country about it and it is certainly going to be a great occasion,’ Quinlan added.

‘And, although there'll be nerves and plenty of tension for the players, if you don't enjoy this type of game you'll never enjoy anything.’

Munster did originally have a record-equalling eight players named in the Lions squad but just three days after the tour party was announced, scrum-half Tomas O'Leary fractured his ankle.

‘I am really gutted for the lad because I have been on the receiving end with injury and missed tours so I know exactly how he feels and to have been selected for the Lions and for this to happen is just awful,’ said Quinlan.

Quinlan is not afraid of a physical encounter and there will be few more attritional contests in world rugby than he will face tomorrow night against Leinster's Australian import Rocky Elsom and Ireland number eight Jamie Heaslip.

Elsom was the outstanding player in a mighty defensive effort that was enough to edge a brutal 6-5 victory over Quins in the last round.

‘That away quarter-final win at Harlequins was hugely impressive, their defence was massive and that's an area where they have made huge strides. Rocky Elsom complements Jamie in the back row and both are really in the form of their life,’ said Quinlan.

‘And with Brian O'Driscoll playing probably the best rugby of his life it gives them a very serious dimension.’

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