As someone with Irish parents this Friday’s British and Irish Cup clash against Leinster ‘A’ holds great significance for Ealing Trailfinders’ Sean O’Connell.
The number 8 has been capped for Ireland’s U19 team and also featured for the Irish Exiles; as such he knows exactly how big a test he and his teammates face under the lights at Vallis Way against a side that began their defence of the B & I Cup with a 49-8 win over Ealing at Donnybrook in October.
“I think typically they like to move the ball,” he said. “I’ve played them a few times at U20 level and against Leinster A and typically they look to move the ball quickly and go through the phases, but they do it really quickly and still keep their organisation.
“From our point of view defensively we will have to be really organised and look to keep our defensive shape at all times.”
Leinster have risen to the top of European rugby over the last six years and in that period their senior side have won the Heineken Cup three times and last year they claimed the Amlin Challenge Cup and the Rabo Direct Pro 12 League title.
Many of the stars of their Heineken Cup wins have come through the A side and they have a system of producing players that will mean they are likely to be at the top of the European game for some time to come.
“They have huge strength in depth and I think if you look at the Irish U20 side the majority of the players that make up the squad come from Leinster,” O’Connell added. “They have some huge rugby schools as well so in terms of their academy they are taking the best from those schools and the competition is just huge and I think that is what drives them.”
O’Connell was a late addition to the Ealing squad after he moved from London Irish in November. His arrival coincided with an upturn in Ealing’s form and he played in the club’s two Greene King IPA Championship victories this season, away to Jersey and Nottingham.
As an Ealing boy the 21-year-old knows the club and its personnel well, and having enjoyed a taste of success at the club wants to keep that form going and help Ealing off the bottom of the table.
“I’m really enjoying it and we have started to hit a bit of form,” he said. “We’re now going away to games and looking to pick up points and with that mindset it is really encouraging to be part of that.
“I think it is likely to be really tense these next few weeks we’ve a few big games, we’ve got Jersey and Nottingham to come at home and Moseley away, so for us those are huge games and we’re really go to enjoy those.”