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Newport Gwent Dragons vs Leinster Rugby
Rabodirect Pro12 Round 7,
Rodney Parade, Newport,
Friday, 1st November 2013, 19:05

Television: Live - RTE2/BBC Wales

Leinster kept their winning run going against Connacht last week but it certainly wasn't pretty. Connacht were typically gutsy and obdurate, as they always are against Leinster, but there was no getting away from how poorly Leinster played for most of the game. After a bright start to the season, Leinster have increasingly found tries hard to come by with only three in their last four games. None of those three tries were scored by the backs either, who have been making line breaks, but have failed to take advantage of them. It's easy to say that it doesn't matter as long as they're winning, but you can only grind out so many results before a lack of scoring power comes back to haunt you.

Leinster's win kept them in fifth place, five points ahead of their opponents tomorrow, the Newport Gwent Dragons. The Dragons have won all their three home games so far this season, indeed they are unbeaten at Rodney Parade since Leinster won there last March. Of all the Welsh clubs they probably did the best recruitment-wise in the summer. True, Dan Lydiate went off to join Jonny Sexton at Racing Metro, but they made useful signings in Richie Rees and Netani Talei from Edinburgh, T. Rhys Thomas from Wasps, Kris Burton from Treviso as well as Jason Tovey, who returned home after a season with Cardiff. All this seems to have contributed to some decent form, at home at least, and they've racked up impressive wins over Ulster, the Scarlets and Treviso so far.

While Leinster are denied access to 17 members of the Ireland international squad, the Dragons are only without Toby Faletau & Andrew Coombs on Wales duty. Even so they've made eight changes to the team which started against the Ospreys last week. Hallam Amos moves from the wing to replace Dan Evans at full-back, with Adam Hughes taking Amos's wing spot and the excellent Tom Prydie remaining on the right wing. Pat Leach is fit enough to return to the centre to partner Ross Wardle. Jason Tovey has recovered from concussion to replace Kris Burton at out-half and Richie Rees remains at scrum-half. The front row of Owen Evans, Sam Parry and Dan Way is unchanged but Adam Jones comes in for Andrew Coombs to partner Matthew Screech in the second row. Flanker Lewis Evans takes over as captain from Coombes and makes up the back row with Jevon Groves and Fijian Netani Talei who replaces Faletau at number eight.

For Leinster, Zane Kirchner finally gets to make his first start, before returning to the international set-up with South Africa for the rest of November. He is one of 11 changes to the team that started last week, including one positional switch. Kirchner makes up a fairly massive back three with Darragh Fanning and the fit again Lote Tuqiri. Luke Fitzgerald and Noel Reid get another chance to impress in the centre. Jimmy Gopperth is named at number ten and is partnered by John Cooney, who makes his first start of the season.

In the pack Michael Bent moves over from tighthead to make his first appearance for Leinster on the loosehead side, although he has plenty of experience playing there back in New Zealand. Aaron Dundon and Martin Moore come in to complete the front row. Quinn Roux is partnered by Tom Denton in the second row and Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock come in to make up the backrow with Shane Jennings, who skippers the side from openside. On a fairly inexperienced bench, another promising tighthead prop, Wexford's Tadhg Furlong, will hope to make his senior debut. Other youngsters like James Tracy, Jack O'Connell, Ben Marshall, Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh will be hoping to make their seasonal bows. With 17 players unavailable and others like Leo Cullen, Jordi Murphy and Andrew Goodman injured, it's still a reasonably strong side overall.

With the Dragons looking very useful at home this season, tomorrow night's game is a tough test for this Leinster team. However they don't want to lose and have to carry that defeat with them during the three-week break coming up. Hopefully that will be enough to motivate them to grab a useful win and one or two tries wouldn't go down too badly either.

Team Lineups

Newport Gwent Dragons

Leinster Rugby
Teams Hallam Amos 15 Zane Kirchner
Tom Prydie 14 Darragh Fanning
Pat Leach 13 Luke Fitzgerald
Ross Wardle 12 Noel Reid
Adam Hughes 11 Lote Tuqiri
Jason Tovey 10 Jimmy Gopperth
Richie Rees 9 John Cooney

Owen Evans 1 Michael Bent
Sam Parry 2 Aaron Dundon
Dan Way 3 Martin Moore
Adam Jones 4 Quinn Roux
Matthew Screech 5 Tom Denton
Jevon Groves 6 Dominic Ryan
Lewis Evans (C)
7 Shane Jennings(C)
Netani Talei 8 Rhys Ruddock

Replacements Hugh Gustafson 16 James Tracy
Nathan Williams 17 Jack O'Connell
Francisco Chaparro 18 Tadhg Furlong
Rob Sidoli 19 Ben Marshall
Ieuan Jones 20
Leo Auva'a
Jonathan Evans 21 Luke McGrath
Kris Burton 22 Cathal Marsh
Dan Evans 23 Brendan Macken

Not Considered
due to Injury
Darren Waters,
T. Rhys Thomas,
Jack Dixon,
Nic Cudd

Jack Conan,
Edward Byrne,
Adam Byrne,
Andrew Goodman,
Leo Cullen,
Jordi Murphy,
Richardt Strauss,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Mike Ross
Officials Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies, Neil Hennessy (both WRU),
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-11-01