Rabo – O’Driscoll & Cullen Hoping To Sign Off With Silverware

Leinster v Glasgow Warriors - Celtic League 2012/13 Round 18

Given that the latest squad update has him training in full, Brian O’Driscoll will almost certainly be donning the 13 jersey one last time when Matt O’Connor names his 23 later today. There has been many farewells for this great champion and ambassador of the sport over the last 9 months, but this is it. Tomorrow at 6pm, Brian O’Driscoll will take to the field for his final ever game of professional rugby. Do you want any more reason to make this one a must-watch?

Well thankfully there are many more reasons, most notably the fact that over the last four years Leinster and Glasgow have been two of the most watchable teams in this competition. Last season Glasgow got a major second wind with the signing of Nikola Matawalu who was instrumental in their prowess, and it is testament to his influence that he has found himself on the bench quite a lot this season, such is the resurgence in the squad and particularly the scrum halves. Leinster meanwhile have lost quite a few talismen with Isa Nacewa, Jonathan Sexton and Joe Schmidt all having departed and the importance of that trinity cannot be underestimated. Whilst Leinster have certainly been less showy, and productive, this season than the last four, it is to their extreme credit that the fallout of those three departures didn’t cause more turmoil.

They do of course bid farewell to two more, arguably more significant, totems in the form of messrs O’Driscoll and of course Leo Cullen, who along with Shane Jennings can take massive credit for Leinster ever becoming what they are today. Both of these players have experienced some of the toughest and darkest days of Irish rugby in one capacity or another, and that the tail end of both their careers has been one of great fortune and reward is no less than deserved. The last two or three years have been riddled with declarations that players of their ilk deserve more silverware for their sacrifice, damn it all it has never been more true than now.

Both Matt O’Connor and Gregor Townsend have their fair share of selection headaches in the best possible sense. For Townsend the aformentioned spoil of scrum halves and a general wealth of talent in the backline allows him room to mix things up, although Stuart Hogg won’t spend anytime on the pitch tomorrow. We will probably never know for sure, but Hogg ending his Glasgow contract early appears to have not sat well with Townsend and the Glasgow management as he is one of their most dynamic players and game changers yet he has been ruled out of contention while fully fit. Possibly cutting their nose off to spite their face, just a tad.

In the Leinster camp meanwhile, the centre is one of the strongest areas of contention for the blue army. O’Connor has waxed lyrical since the semi final that Ian Madigan at 12 is a feasible situation, but he has also stressed that the young out half serves his purpose most on the bench as a utility impact sub. Adding to that, a fully fit Gordon D’Arcy stands alongside Brian O’Driscoll any day of the week. Whilst there are selection options for Leinster, the bigger issue needing resolution still stands the same however, that the attack of what used to one of the most threatening back lines in European rugby has been notably stale in recent months. Think back on the amount of games Leinster could have won, or indeed won by more, had they clicked in attack. It will be crucial against the force of the Scots too of course, and this will not be one of those fixtures Leinster will be able to just about sneak home in.

One thing is for certain, it will be nothing short of entertaining. Expect tries, and high emotions leading to huge intensity. Expect two of the best teams in this competition signing off on its current phase in some level of style.

Leinster win

Image courtesy of leinsterrugby.ie

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