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Cheika confident of home semi final

Guinness PRO12 Editor

16 Feb 2010

Leinster head coach Michael Cheika is confident his side can secure a home semi-final in the end-of-season Magners League Play Offs.

The 2008 Magners League Champions currently sit in fourth place in the standings, although they have a game in hand on league leaders Glasgow and the second-placed Ospreys and two in hand on third-placed Edinburgh.

And Cheika believes his star-studded squad have what it takes to regain the Magners League crown they lost to Irish rivals Munster last May.

"If you look at this Magners League run and the way we try to plan it out, obviously it is not the situation we thought we would be in exactly,” said Cheika, ahead of his side’s return to Magners League action against the Scarlets this Saturday. 

"A top-four place is our target at this stage because we have to be realistic about the players we are missing.

“But we are still close enough to the top, all things going well by the end of these games, to get into the top two.”
Cheika today announced his squad for the clash with the Scarlets at the RDS, with five members of the Ireland Six Nations squad certain to be involved against the Welsh region.

Leinster haven’t played Magners League rugby yet this year after their January trip to Connacht was called off due to adverse weather, although they did beat the Scarlets twice in European competition back in December.

But despite looking ahead towards the run in to the Play Offs, Cheika says he and his team won’t be underestimating the size of the challenge posed by opponents who were 18-16 winners at the Parc y Scarlets on the opening day of the Magners League season. 

"The only player who is a long-term injury doubt is Luke Fitzgerald, so it is probably about a good a compliment as we could have at this stage of the season,” added Cheika when discussing his squad selection.

“Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Eoin Reddan and Jonathan Sexton will all be involved.

"The one thing about the Scarlets is we that remember that they came here and gave us quite a bashing a few years back and that puts the fear into us every time we play them, that they could do it to us again.

"They have got Regan King back…Rhys Priestland behind the scrum is a very good player and we know very well the threat that they pose. 

“I think an individual approach to this game is what’s needed because every step is a step closer to the semi-finals.

“The Play Offs are quite tangible now. We have played nine games but the split will come now.

"After this game we have Cardiff Blues away, Glasgow at home and then Connacht away and they are all important games for us in terms of getting there.”