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Leinster Rugby vs Ulster Rugby
RaboDirect Pro12 Round 11
RDS Showground, Ballsbridge, Dublin
Saturday, 28th December 2013, 18:45

Television: Live - RTE2/BBCNI

After eight wins on the trot, it's now two defeats in a row for Leinster after they were beaten in a rain soaked game in Edinburgh last time out. The conditions were appalling but sadly so was Leinster's performance in a game that will want to be forgotten as quickly as possible by anyone unfortunate enough to witness it. Edinburgh deserved their win but coach Matt O'Connor would have given his players a fierce ear-bashing after the game.

The defeat meant Leinster dropped a place to third in the table with their next opponents Ulster moving up to second. They too played fairly poorly in their home match against Zebre, but they did enough to win. Both teams will be looking for a massive improvement today.

Ulster have recovered quite well in the league after they lost their opening two games. In Europe they've been excellent, the only team across all the pools with four wins from four. In particular they had an excellent win away to Montpellier in round two but they will probably still need to get something in their final match away to Leicester to top the pool.

Ulster have quite a long injury list at the moment but they are able to name quite a strong side despite opting to not start with any of their influential foreign players. John Afoa is back home in New Zealand and Nick Williams is injured. Johann Muller is rested while Ruan Pienaar and Jared Payne are named on the bench. So Ulster have named an all Irish-qualified team. In the backline only full back Ricky Andrew isn't an international. Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy are the wings and Darren Cave and Luke Marshall make up the centre partnership. Paddy Jackson and Paul Marshall are the half-backs.

Callum Black, Rob Herring and Declan Fitzpatrick are the front row while Lewis Stevenson and Dan Tuohy are in the boiler room. The in-form Robbie Diack skippers the team in Muller's absence from blind-side flanker. Australian-born Sean Doyle is named at openside with Roger Wilson completing the team at number eight. It's certainly not their first choice team but it's pretty strong.

The Leinster coach has opted to rest most of his internationals although one does return in the considerable form of Sean O'Brien. Though he's only played four times for Leinster this season mostly due to injury, he's been massively important to the team's fortunes. He's been named in a powerful looking backrow with Rhys Ruddock at blindside and Jordi Murphy at number eight. Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon and Martin Moore continue in the front row. Skipper Leo Cullen keeps his place in the second row and will partner Mike McCarthy this week.

There are three changes to the backs with Dave Kearney and Brendan Macken coming in for Darragh Fanning and Brian O'Driscoll respectively. Zane Kirchner continues at full back and Noel Reid and Luke Fitzgerald keep their jerseys from last time. Jimmy Gopperth comes in for Ian Madigan at ten to partner Isaac Boss.

Ulster won both the regular seasons games against Leinster last season before losing the Grand Final in the RDS. They'll still be smarting from that defeat and will look to get a measure of revenge. Leinster will just be looking to get the train back on the rails with two lousy weeks after the high of the win in Northampton. Ulster look the stronger team on paper but Leinster will hope that O'Brien as well as the support from a sell-out crowd, will get them over the line.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Ulster Rugby
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Ricky Andrew
Dave Kearney 14 Andrew Trimble
Brendan Macken 13 Darren Cave
Noel Reid
12 Luke Marshall
Luke Fitzgerald 11 Craig Gilroy
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Paddy Jackson
Isaac Boss 9 Paul Marshall

Michael Bent 1 Callum Black
Aaron Dundon 2 Rob Herring
Martin Moore 3 Declan Fitzpatrick
Leo Cullen (C) 4 Lewis Stevenson
Mike McCarthy 5 Dan Tuohy
Rhys Ruddock 6 Robbie Diack (C)
Sean O'Brien 7 Sean Doyle
Jordi Murphy 8 Roger Wilson

Replacements James Tracy 16 Niall Annett
Mike Ross 17 Tom Court
Jack O'Connell 18 Ricky Lutton
Tom Denton 19 Neil McComb
Dominic Ryan 20
Mike McComish
Luke McGrath 21 Ruan Pienaar
Ian Madigan 22 Jared Payne
Darragh Fanning 23 Michael Allen

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne, Conor Gilsenan, Dan Leavy, Andrew Goodman, Richardt Strauss, Fergus McFadden, Cian Healy
Chris Henry, Rory Best, Nick Williams, Iain Henderson, Stuart Olding, Tommy Bowe
Officials Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Eddie Hagan-O'Connell (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU),
TMO: Sean Flannery (IRFU).

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-12-28