DARRAGH FANNING PUT on a brave face after Leinster’s draw with Treviso but privately he must have been seething. Leinster travelled to Italy to play a team who hadn’t won a game all season and at times made them look like the 1970′s Baa-baas – they conceded four tries and were a missed conversion away from a defeat.
Leinster need to get over the game quickly to avoid going into the back-to-back Champions Cup games against Harlequins in the same sort of form that they carried into their opening two pool games in October.
Top of the table Ospreys visit the RDS this Saturday so besides getting some momentum before a return to European action, a win would also be valuable for Leinster in terms of climbing into the Pro12 playoff spots.
“It goes back to the first round of the European Cup matches,” Fanning said.
“We weren’t on a good run and we knew that we needed to get a good win to roll into that. This weekend especially we need another good result.
“It’s not the end of the world, three points [against Treviso] is still three points, but obviously it’s a huge test with Ospreys and it’s a perfect test to set you up for two weeks of European Cup rugby.”
While the Ospreys will be missing some of their Welsh contingent, they still have a lot of game-breakers in their ranks, particularly Fijian wing Aisea Natoga. Fanning picked Natoga out by name and acknowledged that he will have to be at his best defensively to repel the wing’s clinical finishing.
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“I’ll have my hands full if Natoga is selected,” Fanning said.
“He’s a good player, I played against him last year. He’s dangerous. You have to stop him quick. If you give him space he’s going to cause trouble all day for you.”
Fanning has been in prolific try-scoring form over the last few weeks and he has been linking particularly well with South African Zane Kirchner in the Leinster backline.
Kirchner is a notoriously reserved character but Fanning has enjoyed getting to know him on and off the pitch and he thinks that has strengthened their understanding in attack.
“Zane is a very quiet guy but when you get to know him he’s a real good guy,” Fanning said.
While the result in Treviso wasn’t to Leinster’s liking, the return of some key players from injury will give Matt O’Connor’s side a big boost before legs three and four of their European campaign. Jordi Murphy and Dave Kearney were in the starting team last weekend and Fergus McFadden and Shane Jennings are expected to rejoin the squad in the near future.
“A couple of big personalities are coming back, off the field as well as on it,” Fanning said.
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