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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
Rabodirect Pro12 Round 6,
RDS Showground,
Saturday, 26th October 2013, 18:45

Television: Live - RTE2

There's no doubt about it, two wins from two is an excellent start to a tough pool in the final Heineken Cup. Last week Castres turned up ready to compete and in truth were a little unfortunate not to take away at least a losing bonus point for their efforts. Leinster started off with the same purpose and intent that they showed the previous week against Ospreys to rack up a 9-0 lead.

Yet, frustratingly for the home fans, they then returned to the type of sloppy play we've mainly seen for the rest of the season. In the backs the running was lateral and the kicking and chasing was poorly executed. The lineouts and restarts were messy, but at least the scrum mainly held it's own, with all four Leinster props acquitting themselves honourably. In the end Leinster were lucky that Castres butchered a couple of gilt-edged try chances at key times and also that referee Greg Garner was in a generous humour towards the home side. Leinster's attack looked more and more rudderless as the game wore on and it was a constant source of debate on the terraces that Ian Madigan wasn't given a chance to effect a change from out-half. So two from two is all good, but Leinster will need a big improvement to get the better of Northampton in the double-header in December.

This week Leinster return to league action trying to improve on their current position of fifth, after two wins, two defeats and a draw so far this season. Leinster take on second-from-bottom Connacht. Connacht have a new coach in Pat Lam and they performed admirably in the last two weekends of the Heineken Cup, taking a losing bonus point from their match against Saracens before hammering Zebre away from home last week.

Their league form hasn't been half as impressive though, with only one win, at home to Zebre, to their name. Lam is clearly trying to implement his new gameplan and at times they've played some lovely stuff but by their own admission, they've also been very naive at times too. However, there's nothing like the sight of a Leinster jersey to rouse a Connacht player so Leinster will still have to give them the proper respect tomorrow.

Connacht have named a team showing three changes to the team that beat Zebre last weeks. In the back three Gavin Duffy comes in at full back and Tiernan O'Halloran returns to the wing. The rest of the backline is unchanged with Robbie Henshaw, Connacht's only call-up to the Ireland squad during the week, selected in the centre. Many people feel the physically imposing youngster could be a long-term successor to Brian O'Driscoll in the Ireland jersey so his performance will be worth watching. Two former Lansdowne and Leinster 'A' players, Craig Ronaldson and Matt Healy complete the three-quarter line and Dan Parks and Kieran Marmion are the half backs.

There's a strong Southern Hemisphere feel to the pack. The Tongan flanker Mata Fifita comes in for Andrew Browne in the only change to the forwards from last week. He makes up a dangerous back row with kiwi's George Naoupu and Jake Heenan, who's been very impressive since signing in the summer. Another New Zealander Craig Clarke teams up with skipper Michael Swift to form a hugely experienced second row. Yet another kiwi Rodney Ah You and Brett Wilkinson are the props and former Munster hooker Sean Henry is the only Irish-born player in the pack. Former Leinster wing Fionn Carr will be itching to get off the bench to have a run at his old team-mates.

Leinster have made seven changes to the starting team from last week. The back three remain the same but there's a new centre pairing in Luke Fitzgerald and Noel Reid. Fitzgerald has been quite vocal in the media about wanting to play outside centre in the long-term and this was behind him almost moving to Munster last season. Now he gets a chance to put his money where his mouth is. Ian Madigan and Eoin Reddan come in at half-back, with Madigan in particular itching to prove his coach wrong for not trusting him last week. In the pack there are new props in Jack McGrath and Michael Bent and Quinn Roux comes in for Mike McCarthey in the second row. The backrow is the same as last week's and once again Jamie Heaslip leads the team. Zane Kirchner in named on the bench and will surely make his Leinster debut at some stage. Shane Jennings makes a welcome return from injury to also take his place on the replacements.

It's a strong Leinster team and after grinding out two wins in the last two weeks, they'll be looking to play with a bit more width in their game tomorrow evening. Connacht, however, are rarely willing patsies and they'll make things as awkward as ever. Leinster should have enough to get a reasonably comfortable win in the end though.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Connacht Rugby
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Gavin Duffy
Fergus McFadden 14 Tiernan O'Halloran
Luke Fitzgerald 13 Robbie Henshaw
Noel Reid
12 Craig Ronaldson
Dave Kearney 11 Matt Healy
Ian Madigan 10 Dan Parks
Eoin Reddan 9 Kieran Marmion

Jack McGrath 1 Brett Wilkinson
Sean Cronin 2 Sean Henry
Michael Bent 3 Rodney Ah You
Devin Toner 4 Michael Swift (C)
Quinn Roux 5 Craig Clarke
Kevin McLaughlin 6 Mata Fifita
Sean O'Brien 7 Jake Heenan
Jamie Heaslip (C) 8 George Naoupu

Replacements Aaron Dundon 16 Dave Heffernan
Jack O'Connell 17 JP Cooney
Martin Moore 18 Ronan Loughney
Mike McCarthy 19 Aly Muldowney
Shane Jennings
Andrew Browne
Isaac Boss 21 Paul O'Donohoe
Jimmy Gopperth 22 Darragh Leader
Zane Kirchner
23 Fionn Carr

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jack Conan,
Edward Byrne,
Adam Byrne,
Andrew Goodman,
Leo Cullen,
Jordi Murphy,
Richardt Strauss,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Lote Tuqiri,
Mike Ross

James So'oliao,
Jason Harris Wright,
Nathan White,
Eoin Griffin,
John Muldoon,
Eoin McKeon
Officials Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Barrie O'Connell (both IRFU),
4th Official: Gary Conway (Leinster Rugby Referees),
5th Official: Gareth Crawford (Leinster Rugby Referees),
TMO: Alan Rogan (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-10-25