A supreme challenge
Miles Harrison says Cardiff will need to be at their best to beat Leinster in the Heineken Cup.
Last Updated: 06/04/12 11:16am
No quarter will be given as the last eight teams remaining in the Heineken Cup go head-to-head this weekend.
Nowhere will that be more the case than at the Aviva Stadium, where Leinster pit their impressive European pedigree against visitors Cardiff.
Miles Harrison will be commentating on the game for Sky Sports and explains why the Blues will have to produce their performance of the season to progress...
The Cardiff Blues haven't had the best preparation for this clash, have they Miles? They lost to Glasgow and then made the headlines following the sacking of Gavin Henson. How do you think that has affected their preparations?
MILES REPLIES: Yes, it has been a far from ideal week for the Blues! But, the stand on Gavin Henson was made swiftly. And, as far as I am concerned, the bigger issue in terms of the preparation for this game and the course of this match itself, concerns the injury to Jamie Roberts. OK, the Blues have had to live without the services of Roberts for the vast majority of the season what with the World Cup, the Six Nations and his injury problems but, just as Leinster get their Lions centre, Brian O'Driscoll, back into their team, the Blues learn that they are to be without theirs. It's a cruel blow for what is a massive game and that is exactly what the Blues needed from Jamie Roberts, a massive game. The Blues have lost their big star back and that is Roberts and not Henson these days.
Yes, going to Leinster is a tough ask at the best of times but without key players like Jamie Roberts and, of course, Sam Warburton, it makes the task even harder doesn't it?
MILES REPLIES: And, we must talk about the absence of Warburton too. If Roberts is the star back, then Warburton is the Blues' star forward. To lose his leadership skills on a day like this is bad enough but, the Blues also know that the breakdown battle is going to be central against Leinster and Warburton would have given them a world class presence there against the likes of Sean O'Brien, Jamie Heaslip etc. Versus Leinster you really need your big guns and this must be a worry for the Blues - not having their biggest gun of all.
Leinster, on the other hand, got a boost at the weekend with their win over Munster. Would that game have taken anything out of them ahead of their Heineken Cup clash?
MILES REPLIES: If it did, then I would argue that is a good thing. That kind of opposition provides exactly the sort of 'hit out' you want before a Heineken Cup quarter-final. Leinster were not at their best at Thomond Park, in fact, it was a pretty poor game, certainly by the standards of the two teams involved but it was still a battle and they won at Munster and that sort of says everything. Leinster have developed into the team that wins when they have to - they find a way.
The scrums were a bit of a debacle in this game, Miles - is there anything for Cardiff to target there?
MILES REPLIES: Maybe... Gethin Jenkins is certainly right up there alongside Warburton when it comes to important influences for the Blues, Wales or, indeed, the Lions. But, Leinster have addressed the area of the scrum over the years and have emerged with most of the right answers. But, what we should all be hoping for is a good contest here because last weekend in Limerick, the stop/start nature of the scrum, rather ruined the match.
What do Cardiff need to do at the Aviva Stadium if they are to have any chance in this game?
MILES REPLIES: In short, they need to play the game of their season and by some distance. The Blues have a poor recent record against Irish teams in the Heineken Cup and also the Rabo Direct Pro 12 and those injuries to men like Roberts and Warburton are body blows. However, I am never of the mind that sport offers up too many certainties and especially not at the quarter-final stage of any competition. The Blues have a set of players who know, as a group, that this will be their last shot at European glory before some rebuilding begins in the summer - that should be motivation enough. But, this is Leinster, at home, in a rocking Aviva Stadium, looking to take a step closer to a third title in four years. You would have to be a very brave person to bet against them.