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Leinster lie in wait again but hold no fears for Warriors

Gregor Townsend, the Glasgow Warriors coach, believes the emotion around what is probably Brian O'Driscoll's last game of rugby will have no bearing on his players when they travel to Dublin for the RaboDirect PRO12 final on Saturday week.

The soon-to-be-retiring Brian O'Driscoll in action against Glasgow Warriors in last year's closely contested RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final. Picture: SNS
The soon-to-be-retiring Brian O'Driscoll in action against Glasgow Warriors in last year's closely contested RaboDirect PRO12 semi-final. Picture: SNS

O'Driscoll's Leinster team-mates earned the right to host the final against the Warriors when they beat Ulster 13-9 at the RDS on Saturday. The centre retired with a head knock after 50 minutes, but it is not thought to be serious and the world's most capped player (133 Ireland Tests plus eight for the Lions) is now expected to take his bow in the PRO12 final.

"Brian O'Driscoll has been such a talisman for Leinster and Ireland over the years, so there will be a lot of people in that stadium wishing him all the best if he is playing," said Townsend, whose own side won their place with a tumultuous 16-15 victory over Munster at Scotstoun on Friday.

"But finals are very emotional anyway. You get huge energy from the crowd, it's the last game of the season and the culmination of the victories that got you there. There are always players leaving at the end of the season and we'll have two or three as well."

A victory for Ulster, who had led until Ian Madigan, O'Driscoll's replacement, scored Leinster's only try in the 71st minute, would have taken the final to Glasgow. As Herald Sport revealed on Saturday, Celtic Park had been lined up as the venue, but the Warriors fans must now cross the Irish Sea to cheer on their side.

However, after pushing Leinster close on their last three visits to Dublin, Townsend said he harbours no fears about another trip to the city.

"The greatest challenge is to play against the best teams on their own patches," said the Warriors coach. "It is about rising to that challenge. We did that last year and it was only the width of a post [Stuart Hogg missed a conversion with the scores at 17-15] that prevented us from going into extra time against them.

"I would love our team to go into that environment again, against a team that has been one of the best in Europe for the past few years, and earn that victory. Obviously, it would have been great to have the final in Glasgow to reward our supporters and have an atmosphere like we had on Friday. That would have been superb, but I'm really looking forward to going to Dublin."

By a strange coincidence, Townsend will have an interest in all three major finals that take place in Europe on May 31. Northampton, his team from 1995 to 1998, won a place in the Aviva Premiership final against Saracens by beating Leicester 21-20, while Castres, where he played from 2000 to 2002, will contest the Top 14 title against Toulon after beating Montpellier 22-19.

However, his focus will be firmly on Glasgow as they seek to take their nine-game winning streak - their last setback was their 28-25 loss to Leinster at the RDS in March - into double figures by lifting the PRO12 trophy. As he admitted, though, the Warriors will have to be at their best to get past the Irish side on home soil.

"From what we have experienced in the past couple of seasons, we know that going over to the RDS there will be a cracking atmosphere again," he said. "Leinster are a top team and they will want to finish the season on a high.

"But we have a lot of momentum built up. We've learned harsh lessons over there about what it takes to win. Last year's semi was our best game of this season, but they still beat us. Discipline is really important and that made the difference in that game. You learn from your defeats and we want to put that knowledge into our very best performance in two weeks' time."

While Glasgow will be making their first appearance in a PRO12 final, Leinster will be in the decider for the fifth year in succession. However, the Dublin outfit have won just one of their four previous finals - against Ulster last year - while two of their three defeats were at the RDS.

Tickets for the 18,000-capacity venue will be split 50/50 between Glasgow and Leinster. While there is little chance of Warriors supporters taking up their full 9000 allocation, league officials expect around 5000 Scottish fans to make their way to Dublin for the game.

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