Leinster’s British & Irish Cup Coach COLIN McENTEE believes that Friday’s game against Plymouth Albion can provide the perfect opportunity for the province’s fringe and burgeoning talent to stake a claim over the coming weeks…

The former Leinster back-rower is fulsome in his praise of the B&I Cup which has helped establish a meaningful and credible environment above All-Ireland League level since its inception last season.

And the Naas man estimates that the growing stature this year can help elevate the next crop of provincial talent to Magners League and Heineken Cup exposure.

“We’re very excited about playing our first home match the British & Irish Cup and there has been a real buzz amongst the players this week as we look to build on our win in Newport in round 1”, McEntee said ahead of the visit of the southern English outfit.

“The professionalism of the teams coupled with the higher standard of rugby means that there’s a tangible opportunity for players to stake a claim ahead of a busy period for the province on all fronts. The manner in which some players seized their opportunities and have made the breakthrough into the senior set-up over the last year provides a real incentive to perform.

“And as coaches it gives us all an opportunity to assess all of the hard work that has gone into training over the last few weeks. I know that Joe (Schmidt) and the senior management see the enormous benefits of the B&I Cup and hopefully it will help provide a platform for more players to make an impression this year.”

McEntee is wary of the threats posed by Plymouth Albion given the close nature of last year’s game in Brickfields which Leinster won 16-13 thanks to 11 points from the boot of Shaun Berne and a Michael Keating try. Therefore taking into account last year’s performance, his analysis of the opposition is tempered by the strength of Plymouth’s displays this season as well as last.

“Last year’s game over there was our first game in the competition and was a real eye-opener in terms of the quality in the English Championship. All you have to do is look at how well the Exeter Chiefs have done since their promotion into the Premiership this year to see how competitive it is.

“Plymouth have a number of good ball-carriers up front and we will need to match their physicality from the off. They also have great mobility out wide so they will ask questions of their defence.

“It was a good test for us last year and it was a step into the unknown at the time, but we have gained more experience and you can see in the players’ attitude in training this week that they want to get off to a good start.

“Even though the senior team are in Heineken Cup action this weekend, we’re expecting to have a competitive side with a blend of youth and experience. I suppose the key message for all of the players is that they all have an opportunity to impress against seasoned professionals and we’re confident that the team can perform at a high level on Friday night.”