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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
RDS Showground, Ballsbridge
Friday, 02 Jan 2009, 19:30

Season Ticket: Magners League No. 5 - Picture of Fergus Slattery
Television: Live - Setanta 1

Leinster begin the new year with revenge on their mind!  Their minds will recall an unexpectedly balmy evening in Galway three months ago.  With the Heineken Cup starting six days later in Edinburgh, coach Michael Chieka had taken a chance on resting a number of key men.  This backfired though as Connacht battled to a deserved 19-18 win.

Leinster took plenty of stick (for a change!) for losing to the team at the foot of the table, but this demeaned Connacht's achievement.  Connacht in Galway are always a hard team to beat and this was demonstrated again last Sunday as they beat Munster 12-6.  Away from Galway though, Connacht can appear to be a completely different side.

In their three away Magners League games this season they've suffered truly desperate hammerings to Llanelli, Cardiff and Ulster.  In those three games they conceded a combined total of 156 points, scoring only 16 in reply.  It must be maddening for their fans to watch them perform so bravely one week and then tamely collapse the next.

So Leinster won't know which Connacht team will turn up tonight, but having been burnt once already this season, they certainly can't take any chances.

Connacht's win over Munster has taken it's toll in terms of injuries and Gavin Duffy and Ray Ofisa have been ruled out.  Troy Nathan moves to full-back to cover for Duffy and Fionn Carr takes Nathan's place on the right wing.  With Ofisa out and Johnny O'Connor also unfit, captain John Muldoon makes a rare start at openside flanker.  Mike McCarthey moves from lock to number six and Michael Swift comes into the second row.  In the front row John Lyne and Adrian Flavin rotate in to start.

By coincidence Leinster also make four changes, one in the backs and three in the forwards.  Girvan Dempsey's ankle injury means Rob Kearney moves in from the wing for only his second start of the season at full-back.  Simon Keogh is rewarded for scoring two tries in the last three games with a start on the left wing.  In the pack Shane Jennings and Stephen Keogh come in for Sean O'Brien and Jamie Heaslip respectively.  The last change is Cameron Jowitt starting in the second row in place of Devin Toner.

After the woeful performance in Castres, Leinster were predictably hung out to dry in the media before earning a redemptive win in Ulster.  That performance was by no means perfect, but they showed great character in grinding out a victory in Ravenhill.  The physicality of the pack in the second half effectively won the game and they'll need more of the same tonight against a tough and doughty Connacht eight.  It will be a tough battle again in near freezing conditions but if Leinster can wear Connacht down up front, the extra bit of class in their backs should see them home.

Happy New Year!

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Connacht Rugby
Teams Rob Kearney
15 Troy Nathan
Gordon D'Arcy
14 Fionn Carr
Luke Fitzgerald 13 Niva Ta'auso
Felipe Contepomi
12 Keith Matthews
Simon Keogh
11 Liam Bibo
Isa Nacewa
10 Ian Keatley
Chris Whitaker (C)
9 Frank Murphy

Cian Healy
1 John Lyne
John Fogarty
2 Adrian Flavin
Stan Wright 3 Robbie Morris
Trevor Hogan
4 Michael Swift
Cameron Jowitt
5 Andrew Farley
Rocky Elsom
6 Mike McCarthy
Shane Jennings
7 John Muldoon (C)
Stephen Keogh
8 Colm Rigney


seven from:
Brian Blaney
Ronan McCormack
Malcolm O'Kelly
Devin Toner
Sean O'Brien
Jamie Heaslip
Chris Keane
Jonathan Sexton
Shane Horgan
Brian O'Driscoll

16 Sean Cronin
17 Ronan Loughney
18 Andrew Browne
19 David Gannon
20 Kieran Campbell
21 Andy Dunne
22 Mel Deane

Not considered
due to injury

Leo Cullen (Collarbone)
Stephen Knoop (Neck)

T Donnelly (knee)
G Duffy (knee)
J O'Connor (calf)
M Roberts (calf)

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: Colin Stanley (IRFU), David Wilkinson (IRFU)
4th Official: Peter Dennehy (ARLB)
5th Official: Robbie O'Flynn (ARLB)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2009-01-02