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Rob Kearney insists the Gallagher Premiership teams will be a big danger to Leinster's hopes of securing back-to-back Heineken Champions Cup titles.
On the back of the British and Irish Lions' tour to New Zealand, only Saracens made it beyond the pool stages last season while both Munster and Leinster reached the semi-finals with the latter going on to claim their fourth European crown.
The IRFU's player management programme ensures players are fresh for the province's bigger matches and, while he accepts the Irish teams are well looked after, he has warned that their English counterparts should not be underestimated.
“It’s hard to say but you write off English teams at your peril a little bit. That’s probably sometimes when they’re at their strongest. Certainly the Irish guys coming back after Lions tour, we do get managed well," Kearney is quoted as saying in the Irish Examiner
"It’s one of the key reasons why a lot of players hang around. You get better looked after. Your minutes are managed. But they were still relatively competitive last year in the tournament and I think a lot of people expect the English to be more competitive this year."
Leinster are the favourites to be crowned European Champions for the fifth time but Kearney accepts they face a tough challenge if they are to retain their title.
"At the European media launch, Johnny (Sexton) carried the trophy in and he put it back down on the stand and, for me, that was a bit of a telling moment that he was giving it back and it was all to play for again," he added in the Irish Independent.
"So certainly within the playing group that is the type of attitude we are trying to incorporate into this season, that we're just one of the teams going chasing it again.
"It's tough to do, but there's no reason why we can't. You set out at the start of the year to win trophies, that's your goal as a team. To do that, chances are, you are going to have to win nine games in a row. It's doable but it's more important to win one from one first."
Leinster begin the defence of their Heineken Champions Cup title when they host Wasps at the RDS on Friday, 12 October live on BT Sport 1 on the eir sport pack [Kick-off 7.45pm]. Subscribe here
Image: Inpho Photography/Billy Stickland