Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game Leinster Coach Joe Schmidt said that the squad are ready for a big test against an ‘improving Connacht side’…

“We played well in parts of the Ulster game and it was frustrating not to get something for our efforts. We have had a look at the game and we are disappointed with aspects of our performance, especially as we knew that Ulster would be very tough to beat.

“But we also know that we’ve got to move on quickly and salvage as much as we can from the Christmas period.

“Saturday night presents the squad with an opportunity to put the Ulster performance behind us but the improving Connacht side have proved very difficult to beat this year. They have recruited well, including a number of players we know well, and will look to dominate and to be as combative as they were in their win over us earlier in the season.

“We know from personal experience how good they can be and they’ll be disappointed that they didn’t make the most of their opportunities against Munster last Saturday, especially when George Naupou crossed the line late in the game. They’ll be frustrated by that and motivated by it as well so there is no doubt about how committed and passionate they will be arriving into the RDS.

“Hopefully we’ll be in a position to welcome back Luke (Fitzgerald), Eoin (O’Malley), Dave (Kearney) and Shane (Jennings) either this week or next and it was also good to get Rob (Kearney) and Brian (O’Driscoll) back on the field as they step up their respective programmes so. With a number of internationals set to be rested this weekend that presents some of the younger members of the panel with a further opportunity to gain experience that will hopefully add value to their development.

“These interprovincial games around the Christmas period are great for players and supporters alike and it looks like we’re going to have another big crowd which is fantastic. The atmosphere will be charged and I know that the players are excited about getting back to playing in the RDS for the first time in a while.

“Weeks like this one are slightly different because it’s a time for everyone to see family and friends, but the players are professional enough and well used to the routine at this time of year.

“The support that we have received at home and on the road over 2012 has been fantastic and on behalf of the players and management I’d just like to thank everyone for their backing. We hope everyone has a great Christmas and we are determined to regain our place in the play-off spots, starting hopefully with a strong performance this weekend.”