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Lowe wary of Leicester’s Grand Slam deniers

By Jon Newcombe
Leinster's James Lowe /PA

Leinster winger James Lowe expects the ghosts of Ireland’s Grand Slam failure to be re-awoken by Leicester’s triumphant England contingent in the build-up to Saturday evening’s Investec Champions Cup Round of 16 Aviva Stadium clash.

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Tigers forwards Dan Cole, George Martin and Ollie Chessum, started England’s 23-22 win at Twickenham last month which ended Ireland’s dream of achieving back-to-back Six Nations clean sweeps and barring injury, they will almost certainly be involved again.

It was an odds-defying result by England and Leicester travel to Leinster’s Dublin fortress as even bigger rank outsiders at 9/1.

“They stopped us winning the Grand Slam, that was the unfortunate thing,” said winger Lowe when asked by RugbyPass if their opponents may take something from the Twickenham encounter, in which he scored twice.

“Look, in terms of that game, we were put under an immense amount of pressure and England had their backs against the wall after the week before [a loss to Scotland] and they stepped up and managed to topple us over so fair play to them.

“There are some English internationals in this Leicester side who are going to be probably playing the same tune as what they were in the week leading up to our Test match.

“It’s about us getting our stuff right. We understand the pressure that comes in these knockout-style games, these international-level games that we play in.

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“We all know if we do our job to the best of our ability, there is going to be opportunities to exploit a team and come Saturday we are going to put our best foot forward and hopefully that happens.”

Leinster and Leicester may have six European Cup titles between them, and the team names may only be differentiated by a single letter, but in reality, they are worlds (or should that be words) apart.

Over two decades have passed since Leicester won the last of their back-to-back triumphs at the turn of the Millennium and it 15 years since they last competed in the final, a 19-16 defeat at Murrayfield handing Leinster their first of their four titles.

It was the catalyst for a sustained period of domestic and European success for current URC leaders Leinster, while Leicester’s opportunist Premiership title win in 2021/22 is something of an outlier in terms of major silverware won.

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And added to that, back-to-back Champions Cup final defeats have given Leinster plenty of motivation to get the job done this year.

“It doesn’t matter who we come up against or the team that we put out there, there is an expectation at this club to perform at the highest level. It’s Champions Cup football, it is something that we haven’t won in many a year (since 2018). We are playing at home, in front of our fans, and we are not here to disappoint,” said Lowe, who scored a try on his return to Leinster colours in last Friday’s 47-14 win against the Bulls.

Leinster are Leicester’s most frequent European opponent: they have faced them 14 times previously and this is the second time they have met this season.

Saturday’s match is a repeat of the round four fixture at Welford Road in which Leinster had to come back from 10-0 down to win 27-10. It extended Leinster’s winning run over the Tigers to five matches, dating back to 2008.

But Lowe insists nothing is being taken for granted this weekend, with familiarity breeding anything but contempt.

“Complacency is a killer and there is none of that in this camp,” the Ireland winger said.

“We understand that there is a target on our back no matter who we come up against and Leicester are a team who have a wealth of experience at international level, they are physical, combative upfront, they have a very big midfield, a World Cup winner at 10 running things, Freddie Steward at the back.

“Look, we’re under no illusions about what is coming this week and we are going to prepare as if there is no tomorrow. If we don’t perform this week, there is no next week.”

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