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Blues ready for Heineken Cup clash at home of champions

The Blues will need to improve hugely from their last game at Glasgow Photo: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

Cardiff Blues travel to the home of the reigning Heineken Cup champions, Leinster, on Saturday evening, knowing they face the toughest of tasks to remain in the competition.

The Blues' preparations have been far from ideal, with linchpin Jamie Roberts out for six months as he undergoes knee surgery, and his fellow centre Gavin Henson sacked by the club following a drunken 'incident' on a team flight last weekend. Amid the off-field distractions, it's almost been forgotten that the Blues were on their way back from a humiliating 31-3 defeat at Glasgow.

Blues Forwards Coach Justin Burnell admits it's been a difficult week - but says the players have been focused on causing an upset at the Aviva Stadium.

The Blues' hopes have been boosted by the return of Michael Paterson, Martyn Williams and captain Xavier Rush to the back row. Gethin Jenkins - shortlisted this week for ERC European Player of the Year 2012 - returns to reassure the front row.

Leinster fly-half Jonny Sexton is also in the running for the award, after another impressive Six Nations campaign. A number of his Ireland teammates will line up beside him in regional colours on Saturday, including veteran centre Brian O'Driscoll.

After early exits for the Scarlets and Ospreys, the Blues are Wales' only representative in the knockout stages of Europe's premier competition. Backs Coach Gareth Baber says his players aren't content with that, though.

For the Blues players who secured a dramatic victory in the red of Wales in their Six Nations opener against Ireland, the Aviva Stadium doesn't hold any fears.

We have to run hard and make sure we are competing at the breakdown and take points when we are given the chance. We have to create our own atmosphere as I'm sure it will be very loud there. This game is our biggest of the season and you don't need any more motivation than a quarter-final in the Heineken Cup in a packed stadium.

– Leigh Halfpenny, Cardiff Blues full-back

Leinster: R Kearney, I Nacewa, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (c), B Thorn, K McLaughlin, S O'Brien, J Heaslip.

Replacements: S Cronin, H van der Merwe, N White, D Toner, S Jennings, I Boss, I Madigan, F McFadden.

Cardiff Blues: L Halfpenny, A Cuthbert; C Laulala, D Hewitt; T James; D Parks, L Williams; G Jenkins, M Breeze, S Andrews, B Davies, J Down, M Paterson, M Williams, X Rush (c).

Replacements: K Dacey, J Yapp, S Hobbs, M Cook, M Molitika, R Rees, C Sweeney, G Evans.

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