By Tadhg Peavoy
Matt O’Connor, Leinster’s top dog, has admitted the lengthy injury list his side has incurred has been difficult to cope with over recent weeks.
But the Australian also feels that his squad will be boosted by the return of several important names in the not too distant future.
“It puts a bit of a strain on resources out there. Without three or four world-class guys puts a bit of a strain on the group but Dave [Kearney] is on schedule to come back from that knee injury and Zane [Kirchner] should be in the panel this week,” said O’Connor.
“And Luke [Fitzgerald] is making steady progress and shouldn’t be that far away. Fingers crossed.
“When you lose the ball carrying of a Cian Healy or a Sean O’Brien, or the finishing ability of Kirchner, Kearney and Fitzgerald, you need to make some adjustments. But it certainly doesn’t take away from the squad and our position to win games. It just might have a different slant to it."
Wasps are Leinster’s first opponents in the Champions Cup, and with the English side languishing ninth in the Premiership, it would appear that it's a good team for O’Connor’s team to come up against the two-time European Cup winners. But the Leinster man feels they offer huge potency in attack and will punish Leinster should they be allowed.
“They [Wasps] have two of the most potent finishers in the game in Tom Varndell and Christian Wade" - Matt O'Connor
“They have two of the most potent finishers in the game in Tom Varndell and Christian Wade, they will lift and enjoy the experience on show at the RDS,” said O’Connor.
“The reality is that Wasps are a very dangerous side. We’re going to have to be very accurate in what we do defensively in that game.
“When the groups came out we thought it was tough. But what we did last year, going to tough places and getting a result, gave guys confidence.
“We were brilliant on the road last year and we’ll be trying to continue with the fortress of the RDS and back that up with good performances.
“It’s about doing everything you can to limit their opportunities to get anything out of the game. And you do anything you can to get a result.”
O’Connor was also keen to point out that he feels the new format for the European Cup is a good one and can only help to improve the standards at the top table of European rugby.
“I think meritocracy is a positive thing. I think reducing the numbers is a positive thing,” said O’Connor.
“It’s certainly brought a sharpness to the pool stages and there will be few given results across the tournament and that is exciting for everybody.”