McLaughlin prepared for “big challenge” against Edinburgh

Leinster supporter Denise McGuinness, from Dundalk, at Edinburgh Castle ahead of tonights' clash.Picture: SPORTSFILE

Leinster flanker Kevin McLaughlin is expecting an abrasive showdown between two physical sides when the blues lock horns with Edinburgh at Murrayfield this evening (7.35pm).

Joe Schmidt’s charges broke a three game losing streak when they overcame Connacht 17-0 at the RDS last weekend.

The European champions will be looking to build on that result tonight when they take on an Edinburgh side struggling for form.

Michael Bradley’s men enter tonight’s showdown after back-to-back defeats to Scottish rivals Glasgow over the Christmas period.

Leinster got the better of things when the sides met in Dublin in September, winning 22-16 but McLauhglin knows his team have struggled at Murrayfiled in the past.

“Edinburgh will pose a big challenge for us, we went through a phase for a number of years where we couldn’t buy a win there.

“We won a high scoring game last year and snuck a win by the skin of our teeth earlier this season, so we’re expecting them to be gunning for us.

“We’ll need to bring a high level of intensity and it’ll be another tight and physical battle.

“Under Michael Bradley they have put together some really good performances and their run in Europe last year was an indication of the threat they can pose.”

McLauhglin is in good company at the back of the Leinster scrum alongside internationals Seán O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip but he knows they’ll have their work cut out if they are to neutralise the threat of the Edinburgh back row.

“They have an international quality back-row and their forwards are good on the ground, abrasive and efficient spoilers.

“David Denton, Ross Rennie, Roddy Grant and Netani Talei have performed consistently well so whichever back-row they go with will be strong.”

Having recovered from the illness which ruled him out of the Connacht win Shane Jennings has been included among the replacements.

With exciting prospects Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan also vying for a place in the starting team McLaughlin admits competition is fierce in the Leinster back row but the Dubliner wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The likes of Rhys (Ruddock) and Dominic Ryan have really stepped up in recent weeks and are making an impression, which is great to see.

“With Jenno (Shane Jennings) a late withdrawal due to illness and Seanie (O’Brien) and Jamie (Heaslip) all back in the frame this week it’s starting to get a bit congested in the back row.

“But that’s exactly what you want. The greater the competition for places, the more intense training is and the enthusiasm all of the lads bring can only be a positive and the management have shown that they’re not afraid to mix and match things and back the depth of the squad.

“In a squad like this you’re almost always looking over your shoulder and you know that if you miss out then you could face a longer spell on the sidelines.”

Two season-defining European clashes against Exeter Chiefs and Scarlets await Leinster after tonight’s league meeting.

With their progression beyond the pool stages of the Heineken Cup in doubt they will have to dig deep to avoid their worst season yet under Joe Schmidt but McLaughlin insists the squad are ready for the challenge.

“From our point of view, January is a huge month.

“We’re still hanging on in both competitions and it’s all to play for, but we’re coming into Europe at a slightly different angle than last year.

“We have a lot of belief and we’re taking each game on a week by week basis. That’s something that Joe (Schmidt) drills into us.”

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