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Leinster Rugby vs Ulster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 12
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 3rd January 2015, 14:40

Television: Live - Sky Sports 2/BBC 2 NI

After a mildly encouraging performance against Connacht, it was normal service resumed for Leinster last week. As in the game earlier in the season in the Aviva stadium, Munster were comfortably the better team as Leinster were again beaten up at the breakdown and easily held out wide. In a team that started with twelve internationals, it was noticable that the two non-capped players in the pack, Jack Conan and Tadhg Furlong, were the only two players to emerge with any credit. If, as the players insist, it is their fault that they're underperforming and not the coaches, then at least there is hope that there are young players coming through to replace the current batch, who frankly are not cutting it these days.

Connacht's magnificent win over Munster last night has put a different onus on this game. Connacht's win put them ahead of Leinster on games won and the pressure will very much be on Leinster to get the win to get back into the top four. The good news is they're taking on an Ulster team who aren't brimming with confidence either. Ulster are out of Europe after three defeats from four, in an admittedly brutally tough group. So they're effectively able to focus all their efforts on the Pro12 and they're currently in fourth place in the table.

On St. Stephens's day, they had a scrappy, nervy win over Connacht. But they're able to recall three of their best players in Tommy Bowe, Ruan Pienaar and Rory Best. Pienaar partners Paddy Jackson at half back while Stuart Olding is recalled to team up with Darren Cave in midfield. Bowe makes up a dangerous back three with Craig Gilroy and Peter Nelson. Best comes into the front row with Callum Black and Wiehahn Herbst. Dan Tuohy and Franco van der Merve are in the engine room and Robbie Diack, Clive Ross and Roger Wilson form a useful back row.

Leinster are able to recall most of their Ireland internationals. Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Devin Toner and Jamie Heaslip all come into the pack. Fergus McFadden is fit again and he comes in on the right wing in the only change to the backline. Ben Te'o is another player available again after injury and he takes a place on the bench.

It's a strong enough Leinster team to get the much needed win, but these days you just don't know what team will show up. Hopefully the embarrassment you'd hope they feel after their inept display in Limerick will at least provoke a reaction.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Ulster Rugby
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Peter Nelson
Fergus McFadden 14 Tommy Bowe
Luke Fitzgerald 13 Darren Cave
Gordon D'Arcy 12 Stuart Olding
Dave Kearney 11 Craig Gilroy
Ian Madigan 10 Paddy Jackson
Isaac Boss 9 Ruan Pienaar

Jack McGrath 1 Callum Black
Richardt Strauss 2 Rory Best (C)
Mike Ross 3 Wiehahn Herbst
Devin Toner 4 Dan Tuohy
Mike McCarthy 5 Franco van der Merve
Jack Conan6 Robbie Diack
Shane Jennings 7 Clive Ross
Jamie Heaslip (C) 8 Roger Wilson

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Rob Herring
Michael Bent 17 Andrew Warwick
Tadhg Furlong 18 Bronson Ross
Kane Douglas 19 Alan O'Connor
Jordi Murphy 20
Sean Reidy
Luke McGrath21 Paul Marshall
Jimmy Gopperth 22 Ian Humphries
Ben Te'o 23 Luke Marshall

Not Considered
due to Injury
Sean O'Brien,
Cian Healy,
Martin Moore,
Edward Byrne,
Rhys Ruddock,
Kevin McLaughlin

Chris Henry,
Iain Henderson,
Nick Williams,
Declan Fitzpatrick,
Jared Payne
Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 35th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O'Connell, Mark Connolly (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner:Eugene Ryan (IRFU) ,
TMO: Jude Quinn (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-01-02