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Dragons vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 13
Rodney Parade, Newport,
Friday, 29th January 2016, 19:05

Television: Live - TG4/S4C

Well that was a bloody horror show!

Leinster finished their European campaign the way the started it, by breaking records against Wasps. Unfortunately they were the wrong sort of records. After suffering their biggest European home defeat in their opening match against Wasps in the RDS, they registered their biggest ever defeat last weekend in Coventry. Now obviously rugby is a game where motivation is key and when it comes to the final round of games, you expect to see the teams with something to play for beat the teams only playing for pride. For many years, Leinster were the ones dealing out these sort of beatings. However it was shocking to see an all international team completely collapse the way they did in a second half which they lost 36-0. It was a reality check to the whole organisation that unless there's drastic improvement between now and next season, Leinster risk becoming perennial also-rans in Europe.

Most of the internationals have headed off now to camp for the Six Nations Championship. Unfortunately many of the Leinster players left behind are injured, and during the week Leo Cullen claimed he was missing 35 senior and academy players for tomorrow night's match away to the Dragons. However the team that he's named is more encouraging that anticipated. The big news is that Hayden Triggs is fit enough to start in the second row, the position where they were most stretched. He partners Ross Molony, who returns to the team looking to repeat the form that made him man of the match against Bath. Two other youngsters who did well against Bath, Peter Dooley and James Tracy are also back in the starting front row alongside Michael Bent who makes his first start since October at tighthead prop. In the backrow Dominic Ryan and Jordi Murphy remain from last week, but Murphy moves back to number eight to allow Dan Leavy make his third senior start at openside.

In the backs Luke McGrath is back starting at scrum-half and is also named as captain for the first time. He partners Cathal Marsh who starts after making his European debut last week. Marsh probably won't have the pressure of goal-kicking though as Fergus McFadden is back from suspension and is named on the left wing. Garry Ringrose and Ben Te'o resume their centre partnership and you feel they will be key men if Leinster are to win. Zane Kirchner moves from the wing to full back to allow academy winger Adam Byrne make his first Leinster start on the right wing.

It is over three years since Byrne's last Leinster appearance. A product of Naas RFC, he was plucked from nowhere by Joe Schmidt at age 18 to play six minutes against Connacht in Christmas 2012. He wasn't even in the Leinster academy at the time but he was soon added. He struggled with injury for the next couple of seasons but this term he's been in great form for the A team. At 6'4'' tall and nearly sixteen stone he's a big unit but he's got genuine pace too. He's the kind of winger Leinster have been crying out for so hopefully he'll go well tomorrow evening. In a further boost for Cullen, Ian Madigan and Richardt Strauss were released from the Ireland squad and are named on the bench. Academy forwards Jeremy Loughman, Oisín Heffernan and Peadar Timmins will make their senior debuts if called off the bench.

The Dragons are having a pretty bad season in the league and they are currently second from bottom in the table with only three wins all season. However they've gone better in the Challenge Cup and have qualified for the quarter-finals. They lost their chance of a home quarter-final last week though when they were thrashed 38-5 by Sale in a display that left director of rugby Lyn Jones fuming.

Jones has made four changes from that game with Carl Meyer coming in to the side at full back in the only change to the backline. There are three more changes in the pack with Boris Stankovich, Matthew Screech and Nick Crosswell coming in. Former Welsh international hooker Thomas Rhys Thomas skippers the side.

The Dragons beat Leinster home and away last season. Leinster got some measure of redress earlier in the season when they beat them well in the RDS. Rodney Parade is always a difficult place to play though as Munster found out when they were well beaten there earlier in the season. With heavy rain forecast it could turn into a bit of a slog, but hopefully Leinster can nick a win to keep the pressure on the Scarlets at the top of the table.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Carl Meyer15 Zane Kirchner
Ashton Hewitt14 Adam Byrne
Adam Hughes13 Garry Ringrose
Adam Warren12 Ben Te'o
Hallam Amos11 Fergus McFadden
Jason Tovey10 Cathal Marsh
Sarel Pretorius9 Luke McGrath (C)

Boris Stankovich1 Peter Dooley
Thomas Rhys Thomas (C)
2 James Tracy
Brok Harris3 Michael Bent
Rynard Landman4 Ross Molony
Matthew Screech5 Hayden Triggs
Nick Crosswell6 Dominic Ryan
Nic Cudd7 Dan Leavy
Lewis Evans8 Jordi Murphy

Replacements Elliot Dee16 Richardt Strauss
Phil Price17 Jeremy Loughman
Shaun Knight18 Oisin Heffernan
Cory Hill19 Tadhg Beirne
James Benjamin20
Peadar Timmins
Charlie Davies21 Isaac Boss
Geraint Rhys Jones22 Ian Madigan
Nick Scott23 Noel Reid

Not Considered
Due to Injury
Andrew Coombs,
Jack Dixon,
Ollie Griffiths,
Dorian Jones,
Pat Leach,
Matthew Pewtner,
Tom Prydie,
James Thomas

Jack Conan,
Edward Byrne,
Mick Kearney,
Cian Healy,
Mike Ross,
Tom Daly,
Tom Farrell,
Tom Denton,
Marty Moore,
Isa Nacewa,
Colm O'Shea,
Royce Burke-Flynn,
Gavin Thornbury,
Ross Byrne,
Steve Crosbie,
Ryan O'Loughlin
Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR, 46th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Craig Evans, Sean Brickell (both WRU),
Citing Commissioner: Dennis Jones (WRU),
TMO: Tim Hayes (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-01-28