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Gloucester vs Leinster Rugby,
Kingsholm, Gloucester,
19th January 2007, 19:30

Having won the group last weekend, Leinster travel to Gloucester hoping for a win to secure a home draw. The fact that any home fixture will almost certainly not take place in Dublin will not dim Leinster's enthusiasm. A "home" fixture, even if it takes place in Ravenhill or in Britain, is still a better option than going into the den of the opposition.

Gloucester will only be playing for pride but in front of the Shed, the most famous terrace in English rugby, pride is not to be under-estimated. Like many a young English team Gloucester found the step-up from the Guinness Premiership to the Heineken Cup too steep. After losing their first two games in the group they put themselves back in contention by winning back-to-back games against Edinburgh. Their last match out against Agen was a must win. They recovered from going 14-0 down early in the match to lead 18-14 with twenty minutes to go. However they lost their composure as Agen rallied to win 26-14. That put an end to their hopes of qualifying but they're determined to go out with a bang and have named a strong team accordingly.

There are a number of changes in the backs, due to injury. Olly Morgan drops out and Iain Balshaw moves from the wing to replace him. Mark Foster takes Balshaw's place on the left wing and Luke Bailey replaces James Simpson-Daniel on the right wing. Anthony Allen is also out so Jack Adams comes into the centre alongside Mike Tindall. The half-backs change too with Peter Richards and Willie Walker replacing Rory Lawson and Ryan Lamb. There's only one change in the pack however, with Nick Wood replacing Christian Califano.

For Leinster there are only two changes to last week's team. Girvan Dempsey returns from injury to take his place at full-back. Rob Kearney, who filled in so well he earned an Ireland squad place, drops to the bench. The only other change is the return of Brian O'Driscoll from injury. He replaces Kieran Lewis, who is unlucky to drop out of the squad altogether.

The biggest compliment you can give Leinster's performance last week is that they didn't miss their captain at all. The first half was a touch hit and miss but the second half performance was exemplary. After conceding a soft try early in the half, they responded by scoring 29 unanswered points playing into the wind. They played some of their best rugby of the season. Shane Horgan's first try was as good a team-try as we're likely to see. In a move spanning eleven phases, only two of the fourteen Leinster players on the pitch didn't touch the ball. It was the perfect example of the game Leinster want to play, high-tempo with backs and forwards interchanging seamlessly.

The Leinster fans that are traveling will be looking for more of the same this Friday. Hopefully with two thousand or so of us shouting them on, they should be able to do enough.



Team: 15: Iain Balshaw, 14: James Bailey, 13: Jack Adams, 12: Mike Tindall, 11: Mark Foster, 10: Willie Walker, 9: Peter Richards, 1: Nick Wood, 2: Mefin Davies, 3: Carlos Nieto, 4: Marco Bortolami (capt), 5: Alex Brown, 6: Peter Buxton, 7: Andy Hazell, 8: Adam Balding
Replacements: 16: Olivier Azam, 17: Christian Califano, 18: Will James, 19: Jake Boer, 20: Rory Lawson, 21: Ryan Lamb, 22: Rudi Keil

Team: 15: Girvan Dempsey, 14: Shane Horgan, 13: Brian O'Driscoll (capt), 12: Gordon D'Arcy, 11: Denis Hickie, 10: Felipe Contepomi, 9: Chris Whitaker, 1: Stan Wright, 2: Bernard Jackman, 3: Will Green, 4: Trevor Hogan, 5: Malcolm O'Kelly, 6: Stephen Keogh, 7: Keith Gleeson, 8: Jamie Heaslip
Replacements: 16: Brian Blaney, 17: Reggie Corrigan, 18: Owen Finegan, 19: Cameron Jowitt, 20: Guy Easterby, 21: Christian Warner / Luke Fitzgerald, 22: Rob Kearney

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-01-19