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Leinster Rugby vs Cardiff Blues
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 12th Sept 2015, 17:15

Leinster got their Guinness Pro12 season off to a disappointing losing start in Meggetland against a committed Edinburgh side. They will take consolation from the fact that their defence earned them a hard-fought bonus point, but in reality it is a bonus point that they scarcely deserved. They struggled at set-piece time, but that said, there are a number of players who can be happy with the shifts they put in.

Dan Leavy, on his first start for the province, tackled like a demon, making 19 tackles with only 1 missed in the 63 minutes he was on the field. Luke McGrath was generally solid and made some important tackles. For many of the younger players in the squad, this will be a valuable learning experience. The fact that Edinburgh only sealed the win with a 78th minute try from Hoyland will give them confidence.

This week Leinster are at home against Cardiff; perennial underachievers in the Pro12. They finished last season in 10th, with only the two Italian sides below them. This season they've bolted out of the blocks with an eleven try rout at home against one of those two. Zebre don't have the same squad depth as many of the other teams in the Pro12 and losing 11 to the Italy Rugby World Cup squad is a huge loss, but the manner of their capitulation is worrying.

Cardiff head coach Danny Wilson has made only 3 changes to last week's starting line-up, with two of those being injury enforced. Craig Mitchell comes in for Taufa'ao Filise at tighthead prop with Owen Jenkins replacing Tom James in the back-line. The only other change is the introduction of Kristian Dacey at hooker in place of Ethan Lewis. Dacey has spent his pre-season with the Wales squad and has only just returned to training with the region. They're captained by Josh Navidi at openside, who's joined in the back row by Manoa Vosawai and Josh Turnbull, who scored a hat-trick in the last 10 minutes last week.

He wasn't the only hat-trick scorer last week and Rhys Patchell will be hoping he can continue where he left of last week as well. He's joined in the half-backs by the dangerous Tavis Knoyle.

For Leinster, Leo Cullen has named a team with 4 changes from the side that went down in Edinburgh last time out. The front tow is unchanged with Aaron Dundon packing down alongside Michael Bent and Jamie Hagan. In the second row, Ross Molony gets his first senior start alongside Mike McCarthy, whose experience will be important to the academy lock.

In the back-row, Kevin McLaughlin has failed to come through the return to play protocols in time for the game so Dominic Ryan is promoted from the bench in his place. Josh van der Flier gets his first start of the season in place of Dan Leavy, who drops to the bench. The back-row is completed by Jack Conan, who once again starts at number 8. The back-row is where the match could be won or lost tomorrow and all three will need to at their best against a strong Cardiff unit. The half backs are unchanged, with McGrath and Marsh given another chance to impress the coaches. The centres pairing sees Noel Reid once again partnering Ben Te'o. The only change in the backs is the introduction of Garry Ringrose in place of Darragh Fanning, who drops out of the 23 altogether. A lot has been said about the young centre and this is the first time that many Leinster fans will have seen him play, albeit on the right wing. The back three is completed by Fergus McFadden, who starts on the left wing and Isa Nacewa who captains the side from full back in the absence of McLaughlin.

If the Leinster pack can gain parity with Cardiff up front and particularly in the back row battle, they should be able to make home advantage count, but if their struggles persist at set-piece time continue, it could be a long evening.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Cardiff Blues
Teams Isa Nacewa (C)
15 Dan Fish
Garry Ringrose
14 Aled Summerhill
Ben Te'o
13 Tom Isaacs
Noel Reid
12 Gavin Evans
Fergus McFadden
11 Owen Jenkins
Cathal Marsh
10 Rhys Patchell
Luke McGrath
9 Tavis Knoyle

Michael Bent
1 Sam Hobbs
Aaron Dundon
2 Kristian Dacey
Jamie Hagan
3 Craig Mitchell
Ross Molony
4 Jarrad Hoeata
Mike McCarthy
5 James Down
Dominic Ryan
6 Josh Turnbull
Josh van der Flier
7 Josh Navidi (C)
Jack Conan
8 Manoa Vosawai

Replacements Bryan Byrne
16 Ethan Lewis
Peter Dooley
17 Thomas Davies
Royce Burke-Flynn
18 Scott Andrews
Tadhg Beirne
19 Lou Reed
Dan Leavy
Ellis Jenkins
Isaac Boss
21 Lewis Jones
Ross Byrne
22 Gareth Davies
Cian Kelleher
23 Garyn Smith

Not Considered
due to Injury

Officials Referee:Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 8th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O'Connell, Jonathan Peak (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Peter Ferguson (IRFU),
TMO: Seamus Flannery (IRFU)

by Paul Kelly, © 2015-09-11