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Rabo – Final Farewells Kick Off For Leinster

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He has echoed the thought himself, and it is true, Brian O’Driscoll has been retiring for an awful long time at this stage. True enough, hanging up the green jersey with a Six Nations title to go with it and no Heineken Cup left to play for, the biggest flair of his retirement is probably gone. But keep in mind Leinster haven’t exactly a lavish track record with the Pro 12 title and to think it means any less to him or Leinster as a whole just because it is the only remaining prize would be a mistake

Leinster are also gearing up to bid a fond farewell to Leo Cullen, their second talismanic stalwart. The departure of these two will leave gaps to be filled, the recent whispers of Kane Douglas coming aboard the blue ship certainly helping to dampen the blow.

It has been a mixed post-Schmidt season for the three time Heineken Cup champions. Even within the Heineken pools they were mixed, which ultimately was their undoing. Even in recent games since the European exit they have been hot and cold over eighty, Ospreys getting their number once again and Ulster running them very close with a man down.

Still, the quality is still in this team, even if the coaches are still getting a grip on the reins. Edinburgh are of course still playing for their European standing next season too, so of all the provinces they have probably the best lead in with what should be a highly competitive game. That said, at home, emotionally charged, it’s hard to see past anything but
Leinster win

Munster have a near equally tough task ahead of them with Ulster standing in their way of second place qualification, and the knowledge that Glasgow will likely have it easier at home to Zebre. With admittedly better results, Munster have had a similar season to Leinster although tragically it seems as though Rob Penney may only now finally be getting a grip on things in his last few games as coach. Still, great platforms and all that.

Ulster will be stinging after their second fourteen man loss in four weeks and will have points to prove above all else. They will be hindered by the loss of Tom Court against the generally reliable Munster scrum, but it certainly will help their cause that with two games extra in their win column versus Ospreys, they are through and qualified, with no chance of a home semi. Essentially, there’s a little room to experiment given that they can’t even change their seeding for knock out opponents.

Do these kind of thoughts go through player’s heads? Probably not. But there has to be some small comfort from travelling to Thomond with at least some pressure alleviated. Munster however still have the second place carrot at their disposal and for that reason alone.
Munster win

Finally we have a game that really should have more riding on it than just pride alone, as Connacht travel to Wales for the unenviable task of searching out a win against Ospreys. They too will be waving goodbye to some top talent of their last number of seasons, such as Gavin Duffy and Dan Parks who are all part of the cull in order to draft in the new super powers such as the miracle signing of Mils Muliaina (and on that note, can we send Pat Lam to Europe for all further Troika/bailout conversations in future? Serious negotiation skills there).

Ospreys can no longer break into the top 4 but they do need to maintain some face after a rather embarrassing Italian job last week. Like Connacht, pride is their biggest asset, with their position as top Welsh team in the league untouchable in this final week. They also will want to put in a proud performance given how much of a hold they have had in this competition over the last number of years, particularly when it came to toppling Leinster at the height of their power.

For Connacht, one more famous win would be a great icing on a roller coaster season, but it just seems like a little too much. Still, it’s testament that Lam has managed to generate some optimism around the province ahead of next season.
Ospreys win

Image courtesy of RTE.ie

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