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Leinster Rugby vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Royal Dublin Showground
Saturday, 03 May 2008 - 18:00

Television: Live - Setanta Ireland
Season Ticket: Magners League 9, End Of Season Reception: Reserve Ticket 3

Leinster have one hand on the Magners League trophy now.  A win on Saturday evening against the Dragons will definitely secure them their first trophy since they won the inaugural Celtic League six seasons ago.  Indeed, they may even start the match as champions if Cardiff fail to beat Connacht this evening.  Either way, Leinster will be determined to win their final home game of the season and put on a display for the big crowd.

Leinster have made three changes to the team that lost against Edinburgh.  Malcolm O'Kelly returns to replace the injured Leo Cullen in the second row.  Cullen is out for five months after undergoing a shoulder injury and it's a tough break on him to miss the clincher as he's made such a huge impact on his return this season.  His organisation of the lineout has made a strength of what was a weakness in the last two seasons and he had lead the team superbly in Brian O'Driscoll's absence.

In the back-row Keith Gleeson returns with Shane Jennings again reverting to blind-side and Stephen Keogh dropping to the bench.  It'll be Gleeson's final home match before retiring at the end of the season.  He has been a fantastic servant for Leinster over the last seven years, always willing to put his body on the line and a real gentleman off the pitch.  No doubt he'll receive a fantastic ovation from the crowd.

The only other change sees Luke Fitzgerald dropped for Shane Horgan who returns on the right wing.  Fitzgerald is entitled to be disappointed with this as he has scored more tries this season than Horgan, Girvan Dempsey and Rob Kearney combined.   He's also started every Leinster since Christmas in four different positions and has always made a hugely positive impact.  He's played a massive part in Leinster's successful campaign and so it's a shame that he's the one to have to drop out of the starting line-up.

For the Dragon's it's been another season of disappointment.  They started the season reasonably well but their Heineken Cup hammering at home to London Irish was like a stake through the heart of their season and they never really recovered.  Their financial problems off the pitch have always hampered them and the news hasn't gotten any better with two of their better-known players, Michael Owen and Ceri Sweeney, moving on next season.

That said, Leinster will still have to treat their opponents with respect.  They're still competing with Connacht for the opportunity of a Heineken Cup play-off with the third-placed Italian side.  Also there's a bit of "history" between the teams, with their most recent meeting in April last season a bad-tempered affair with three yellow cards and lots of off-the-ball incidents.

The Dragons have named quite a decent team especially in the forwards.  Owen, Jamie Ringer and Richard Parks form a tough and wily back-row and they've internationals in the front five in Peter Sidoli, Rhys Thomas and Steve Jones.  Andy Williams and Sweeney are an experienced duo at half-back and Paul Emerick, Gareth Wyatt and Kevin Morgan offer some pace outside.  In fact, looking at that side makes you wonder how they've not done better this season, but their lack of finance means they've very little quality back-up in the squad and this does tell over the season.

The Leinster squad were genuinely disappointed that they didn't win the title the last day against Edinburgh and it would be a big surprise if they didn't finish the job tomorrow evening.  In any case, wet weather is predicted (for a change) and we know that Leinster can't lose in the rain.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Newport Gwent Dragons
Teams Girvan Dempsey 15 Kevin Morgan
Shane Horgan 14 Gareth Wyatt
Brian O'Driscoll (C) 13 Paul Emerick
Felipe Contepomi 12 Gareth Maule
Rob Kearney 11 Richard Fussell
Jonathan Sexton 10 Ceri Sweeney
Chris Whitaker 9 Andy Williams

Ollie Le Roux 1 Adam Black
Bernard Jackman 2 Steve Jones
Stan Wright 3 Rhys Thomas
Trevor Hogan
4 Adam Jones
Malcolm O'Kelly 5 Peter Sidoli
Shane Jennings 6 Jamie Ringer
Keith Gleeson 7 Richard Parks
Jamie Heaslip 8 Michael Owen

Replacements Brian Blaney 16 Seven from
Ben Daly
Lee Harrison
Andrew Hall
Phillip Dollman
James Harris
Lewis Evans
Richard Mustoe
Jason Tovey
Wayne Evans
Stephen Knoop 17
Cameron Jowitt 18
Stephen Keogh 19
Chris Keane 20
Christian Warner 21
Luke Fitzgerald 22

Not considered
due to injury
Gordon D'Arcy
Leo Cullen

Officials Referee: Andy MacPherson (SRU)
Sub Referee: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Touch Judge: Peter Roche (IRFU)
4th Official: Robert Doyle (ARLB)
5th Official: Kevin Beggs (ARLB)
TMO: Eanna O'Dowd (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2008-05-02