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Michael Cheika’s Connacht Preview

Guinness PRO12 Editor

23 Mar 2010

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s interprovincial derby, Leinster Coach Micheal Cheika said that the squad are determined to face the challenge of Connacht in a positive fashion.

"This period of the calendar is always a bit difficult to manage but it’s a good time to test the strength of our squad. We also have an extra game in there because of the postponements in January so that meant there was an extra workload, but hopefully our results in this period are an indicator as to how we might perform over the next few weeks.

"We might look to rotate the squad a bit more because we have a big run of games coming up. These are ten of the biggest weeks of my career here and we’re not looking past each individual test.

"In terms of the returning (international) players, everyone’s different. I think that players generally like coming back into a fresh environment and even though we gave all of the Ireland players time off until this Thursday, around 80% of them have already come back of their own accord.

"It has been left to the individuals because a lot of the players have had a heavy workload over the last few weeks. Some have rang (me) and asked me to play, so there’s a good sense of responsibility in the group which is pleasing.

"With Brian (O’Driscoll) we’re targeting his return for Clermont and Gordon (D’Arcy) is pretty confident that after a five or six day rest that he could play against Munster.

"At this time of the year rest is a vital commodity and so those guys who played consistently might well have been rested for one or maybe two weeks anyway. With (Nathan) Hines we’re unsure if he’ll play which could give opportunities to the likes of Rhys Ruddock and Eoin Sheriff this week. Shaun Berne hasn’t trained yet this week, while it’s a bit more difficult for Shane Horgan who has a foot injury, but again we’re hoping that he’ll be back next week.

"Luke Fitzgerald’s going really well but we have taken a longer-term view of things and he won’t play again this season. Given the nature of his injury, we’re going to wait until he’s 100% ready to come back.

"It’s pretty likely that (Andrew) Conway and Ruddock will be involved (this weekend) and that’s part of the culture that we’re trying to build here. We have been pretty happy with the young guys who have come up recently and players like Ian Madigan have shown real physicality which is pleasing.

"There was a pretty poignant last year when we lost to Connacht when their coach said in the aftermath that they targeted us. Obviously they think that they can beat us and they feel that they have the wood over us, or the better of us. Home matches are very important for us and Saturday’s going to be a big game. Every match against Connacht over the last five years has been a battle so we have to make sure that we’re strategically right and physically right particularly."