Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s interprovincial derby, Leinster full-back GIRVAN DEMPSEY said that the squad are prepared to face an in-form Connacht side as the business end of the season approaches…

“At this stage of the season all teams have tough schedules, particularly more so this year because of the poor weather around the turn of the year, so it’s something we have to manage and prepare for. It’s very difficult to play three matches on a Friday-Wednesday-Friday rota as we find ourselves this week, but this is one of the challenges that we must meet.

“The demands on the squad are great, but we’re fortunate that we have strength in depth and everyone who pulls on the shirt this week, be it against Connacht or Glasgow on Friday, will want to make a positive impression with some big games coming up.

“The Ospreys had demands on their squad last week and this week it’s the same for ourselves and Connacht. They were unlucky not to get a win against Munster (on Sunday) and we know that we’re in for a tough examination on Wednesday because they’re an improving side who are on a high. I always enjoy playing in the Sportsground because the atmosphere is lively and the supporters are right on top of you.

“There’s no chance of getting an easy game there, but what Connacht have shown this year is that they have travelled particularly well in the competition and they could have won last month’s game in the RDS. They really laid down a marker that day, they’re also a side who are on the brink of qualifying for the Heineken Cup, so we’ll need to be on top of our game.
“In terms of areas that we need to be strong in; execution of our set-pieces will be crucial and once the backs get their hands on the ball you have to take your chances when they come along.

“With the Magners League adopting the play-offs this year, it means that the four teams chasing the semi final places will be fighting hard right until the last weekend, so we can’t let our standards slip.

“We know that perhaps we’re not hitting the highs with the manner of our victories. We’re winning tight games, which is an important habit to get into, but there’s definitely room for improvement. It takes a certain level of character to edge these tight matches, but we know we can improve.

“That’s the challenge for us as we approach a series of successive knockout games. It’s an exciting time for the younger players in the squad who have been blooded this year to stake a claim, but from a senior player’s point of view it’s great to be involved in two competitions and to have a chance to put your hand up for selection.”