Leinster have the power up front to win an arm-wrestle against Exeter, according to former Munster and Ireland flank Alan Quinlan.
After their round of 16 encounter against Toulon was cancelled under COVID grounds last week, Leinster are straight through the Champions Cup quarter finals against Exeter on Saturday.
After being knocked out by Saracens in last year’s quarter finals, Leo Cullen’s men will be looking to knock out the defending champions to make it into the semis of this year’s competition.
While Exeter are looking strong coming into the match, which they are hosting at Sandy Park, Quinlan believes that they do not have the quality necessary to beat Leinster.
“Leinster can do it a number of different ways,” Quinlan said on Friday’s OTB AM. “They are strong mentally, physically, they have a ruthless edge to them, and they are a team that, bar Saracens, nobody has gotten close to bullying them.
“You look at the Exeter team and you think that this is a team that can probably do that, and if they are to have any chance in the game [they will have to bully Leinster].
“They do the simple things so well, their set piece is good, and you analyse Exeter, and they just try to outmuscle teams.
“I don’t think Exeter’s backline is as good as Leinster’s and they don’t have any superstars.
“Joe Simmonds is their captain at flyhalf. He is a very good player, but he is not an international quality player.
“He is probably close enough to be in there, he is a very solid player; I am not saying that he is a bad player.
“Henry Slade is probably the one with the silky skills at 13 if he gets enough ball.”
The exception to the physicality rule
Much has been made of the Irish provinces inability to compete with more physically dominant teams, such as Saracens and Exeter.
Even at a national level in last year’s Six Nations, there were a number of concerns around Ireland’s ability to front up physically against the likes of England.
It is for this reason that many are looking to see how the inclusion of the South African Super Rugby franchises in the PRO14/16 may affect the Irish players’ physicality.
Speaking on Thursday’s OTB AM, Connacht head coach Andy Friend suggested that, against the English teams, Ireland are “trying to win an arm wrestle and they had bigger arms”.
However, Quinlan believes that Leinster are the exception to Friends’ comments.
“Leinster are the exception to that,” Quinlan said. “They have proven that over a number of years.
“It is their collective cohesion up front. They won’t be daunted or step away from that physical challenge up front; they will know about it.
“They will kind of revel in that opportunity to show their quality.
“What Andy Friend says is right; sometimes you do get overpowered, but Leinster are the exception of the Irish provinces.”
Leinster by a narrow margin
Quinlan, though, is not completely convinced that Leinster are firm favourites heading into their quarter final, and can easily see Exeter advancing in the competition if Cullen’s men are not careful.
“The concern is, and maybe it can work for or against them, is that Leinster didn’t play last weekend,” Quinlan said.
“They are obviously going to be physically fresh. Maybe it was time for Leo Cullen’s men to re-energise.
“A lot of their players would have been involved in the internationals in a long Six Nations.
“I think Exeter will be better [than last week]. They conceded two early tries last week but then it was just brute force with their forwards.
“It is a very hard one to call, but I just fancy Leinster because of their overall balance in their team.
“They are missing [Garry] Ringrose and James Ryan, which could be significant because they are two big losses.
“I think they are good enough to get the job done, but I won’t be any bit surprised if Exeter win this game or go very close to beating Leinster.”
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