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Connacht Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
The Sportsground, Galway
Saturday, 2nd January 2010, 16:00

Television: Live Setanta Sports 1, Repeat: Setanta Ireland Sunday 11.45

After a momentous 2009, Leinster travel to Galway for their first match of 2010. The Sportsground is always a tough venue to visit and Leinster endured a lot of close calls in recent years before finally losing there last season. On that occasion Leinster had travelled with a weakened team and it's the same this time with several top men rested, Brian O'Driscoll, Rob Kearney and Jamie Heaslip the most notable. Connacht rested some of their star men for the timid defeat away to Munster so it's clear they're targeting this one. So Leinster are up against it tomorrow.

After the highs of the two comprehensive victories over the Scarlets, Leinster were brought back to earth against Ulster. Though the win itself was rarely in doubt, it was the fractured nature of the performance that left both the Leinster players and management frustrated. The required intensity wasn't there and with a bit more precision in attack, the under-strength Ulster team could have made the result a lot closer.

Connacht lost 35-3 to Munster on the same day but Leinster will face a team that more closely resembles the team that earned back-to-back wins over the Worcester Warriors. Fionn Carr, Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, John Muldoon and Mike McCarthy all return to the team after being rested the last day. Carr is the top try scorer in Irish rugby over the last two seasons and Keatley and Cronin's good form has seen them earn international honours. Ofisa is immensely strong at the breakdown and Muldoon is one of the most consistent backrows around so Leinster need to be on their guard.

Leinster make seven changes from the team that started against Ulster. There are only two changes in the backline where Girvan Dempsey and Fergus McFadden come in for Kearney and O'Driscoll. In the pack it's all change though. Stan Wright switches to loosehead to allow Mike Ross come in at tighthead and Bernard Jackman comes in for John Fogarty at hooker. In the second row Trevor Hogan makes his first start of the season alongside Leo Cullen. Nathan Hines makes his second Leinster appearance in the backrow alongside Stephen Keogh and Sean O'Brien.

It's going to be a tough game (if it goes ahead!) but Leinster didn't enjoy losing here last season and they have a strong enough team out to make sure there's no repeat!

Team Lineups

Connacht Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Troy Nathan 15 Girvan Dempsey
Liam Bibo 14 Shane Horgan
Niva Ta'auso 13 Fergus McFadden
Keith Matthews 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Fionn Carr 11 Isa Nacewa
Ian Keatley 10 Shaun Berne
Frank Murphy 9 Eoin Reddan

R. Loughney 1 Stan Wright
Sean Cronin 2 Bernard Jackman
R. Morris 3 Mike Ross
Mike McCarthy 4 Leo Cullen (C)
Bernie Upton 5 Trevor Hogan
John Muldoon (C) 6 Nathan Hines
Ray Ofisa 7 Sean O'Brien
George Naoupu 8 Stephen Keogh

Replacements Adrian Flavin 16 John Fogarty
Jamie Hagan 17 Ronan McCormack
Michael Swift 18 Devin Toner
Andrew Browne 19 Kevin McLaughlin / Paul Ryan
Conor O'Loughlin 20 Paul O'Donohoe
Miah Nikora 21 Simon Keogh
Andan Wynne 22 David Kearney

Not Considered
due to Injury

Luke Fitzgerald
Jonathan Sexton
CJ van der Linde

Officials Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
Assistant Referees: D. Wilkinson (IRFU), M. Black (IRFU)
TMO: Bernie Smith (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2010-01-01