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'I'll probably get hammered for saying this' - Claims Leicester are a hype job

By Ian Cameron
Freddie Burns celebrates a try /PA

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan believes Leinster should beat Leicester Tigers in the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup this weekend – and that the English side are effectively a hype job.

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Leicester Tigers and Leinster, this season’s leading clubs in the Gallagher Premiership and the URC, will be going head-to-head for the fifth time in the knockout stage of the tournament when they clash at Mattioli Woods Welford Road on Saturday. It’s currently 2-2 including the 2009 final won by Leinster at BT Murrayfield.

O’Sullivan admits he’d be shocked if Leinster don’t beat the Midlanders on their home turf.

The 63-year-old Cork native was speaking on the RTE Rugby Podcast, where he surmised that the threat that Leicester poses to Leo Cullen’s team is being exaggerated.

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“I’ll probably get hammered for saying this, but I think we’re giving Leicester too much credit,” said O’Sullivan. “They’re a very good team, no question, but I’d be shocked if Leinster don’t beat them at the weekend. I think Leinster are locked and loaded at the moment, they’ve managed their resources brilliantly.

“They’re in a great place, this has been planned along the way. I’m not taking away from Leicester, they’re a good team, top of the Gallagher Premiership, but let’s not forget Connacht scared the pants off them in the European Cup. At [Mattioli Woods] Welford Road the final score was 29-23, and the score at the Sportsground was 28-29.

“Leicester are a good team but we shouldn’t make them out to be [more]. I just think Leinster are a better side, they have more strings to their bow. Leinster aren’t aren’t going to be bullied upfront. Don’t be codding yourself.

“Look at that Leinster pack. It’s essentially an Irish pack by in large. They’re aren’t going to get pushed around Welford Road. Look at the backs. It’s just a really, really good team. Maybe the best in Europe, although Toulouse would have something to say about that.

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“We’re probably talking Leicester up a bit. I don’t see the evidence, in Europe that Leicester are as good as we make them out to be. Connacht really could have had them twice, so for that reason I’m very optimistic about Leinster winning in Leicester.”

For their part, Leicester certainly haven’t been underestimating the threat posed by Leinster. Earlier this week Ben Youngs insisted it will take a performance of Test match proportions for Leicester to topple the Irish giants.

“We acknowledge what’s coming and recognise the effort it’s going to take, but it also allows us to be really excited about this week,” England’s most capped player said.

“It’s going to have that Test match feel to it, that’s what it’s going to take. I think anything short of that build-up is not going to be enough.

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“It’s weeks like this that we want to be part of as Leicester moving forward and it’s great we’re now able to start doing it.

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“We’re at home, we love playing there, we’re expecting a great crowd and we’re playing against a team who have been formidable in Europe for years.

“Straight away you know you have got to have a week where you peak. We’ll have to do that to get the victory and will need to be at our absolute best.”

Leicester won consecutive Champions Cup crowns in 2001 and 2002 but nothing in Europe since, while their most recent domestic success was their Premiership title of 2013.

additional reporting PA

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