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02nd Apr 2015

Leinster need to shackle these Bath dangermen, and a bench-warming wrecking ball named Sam

Champions Cup returns this Saturday

Patrick McCarry

By approximately 5:10pm on Saturday, Leinster could be sitting pretty in the last four of the Champions Cup.

The alternative, for a team languishing fifth in the Guinness PRO12, does not bear thinking about.

Leinster supporters would confidently head along to a home quarter-final against Bath most seasons. 2014/15 is not most seasons.

Matt O’Connor is attempting to implement is style of play on a squad that has lost O’Driscoll, Cullen, Nacewa and Sexton in the past two seasons. There have also been long-term injuries to the likes of Sean O’Brien, Cian Healy, Richart Strauss, Luke Fitzgerald and Fergus McFadden.

Regardless, Leinster supporters now expect success. With the Kearney brothers and a bundle of fellow Irish internationals back in the shed, and Leinster entering the knock-out phase of the season they love so much, Bath will be up against it in Dublin.

If Leinster want to tee up a semi with Toulon or Wasps, these are the players they need to shut down.

George Ford

The man that, along with half back partner George Cook, makes Bath tick. His flat, rapid passing [flung off minimal back-lift] gears Bath’s backline up and already gives them a head-start. He is, according to Ian Madigan, the Aviva Premiership’s most complete out-half. Adept at drop goals, picking out off-the-shoulder runners and gunning at defensive gaps.

Leinster flanker Jordi Murphy wants his side to get after Ford like Ireland – specifically Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw – managed to do in the Six Nations. He said, ‘ We are going to have to. He’s a great player and he has shown that in the last few years. He’s really their go to man… looking to him to get things going and that is one of the pressure points we are going to have to go after him.’

Kyle Eastmond

The architect of most of Bath’s best backline moves. Unlucky not to feature in the Six Nations, although he trained all February and March with the national squad. When Bath go wide, this is the man to make the call.

Check out this superb Dead Ball Area analysis of Eastmond’s attacking threat from earlier in the season. The same lessons will ring true on Saturday.

Jonathan Joseph

Was on course for Six Nations Player of the Tournament after two rounds but ended up having to settle for most pundits’ team of the tournament. A hard man to pin down and a demon for those 10 and 20-metre clean breaks that so splinter a defence.

Capable of magic, acceleration bursts, a man with soft hands and player who puts the team ahead of himself. All evidenced here in this fantastic, try-assisting passage of play against Toulouse:

And finally, that man Sam

Arrived from Australia’s NRL and man-of-the-match success – with a broken cheekbone – as the man to take union by storm. Started well but his form has tapered in recent months and he should start on the bench.

Bath will go to him around 50, 55 minutes if the day is not swinging their face. He offers a straight up, running and boshing Plan B for the English outfit. Here are some of his highlights so far:

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