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Cardiff Blues vs Leinster Rugby
RaboDirect Pro12 Round 15
Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff,
Thursday, 20th February 2014, 20:05

Television: Live - RTE2/BBC Wales

Thursday night rugby is back!!!!

To the intense joy of nobody in particular, save for maybe one or two TV executives. But hey, we're stuck with it and at least the players and coaches can now take the weekend off and maybe head out for a few scoops for the England-Ireland game on Saturday.

Before that though, Leinster need to keep the pressure on leaders Munster by winning in the Welsh capital. Cardiff showed some promise early in the season, particularly when beating Toulon in the Heineken Cup, but they've now collapsed in their tediously predictable fashion. They've only won one of the last seven games in the league and have endured some particularly brutal hidings by Ulster and Munster. Last week, they were leading 20-13 at home to Glasgow but still managed to lose 27-20 and they remain in ninth place in the league with only four wins to their name.

This week they've named a team with Ireland A international Robin Copeland at number eight. The Wexford man played well in the Wofhounds game against England and his consistently excellent performances for the Blues have earned him a move to Munster from next season. He forms a useful backrow with Macauley Cook and Welsh international openside Josh Navidi. James Down and Filo Paulo are the second row and Sam Hobbs skippers the team from the front row alongside Kristian Dacey and Scott Andrews.

In the backs, Dan Fish, Owen Jenkins and Harry Robinson make up a young and exciting back three. Samoan international Isaia Tuifua and Welsh international Gavin Evans bring a bit more experience to the centre positions. Gareth Davies and Lewis Jones are the half backs.

As with last week, the main question in the build-up to the match for Leinster was would Richardt Strauss and Luke Fitzgerald be fit enough to play. Well the answer is yes and...maybe. Strauss is fit enough after shaking off a hamstring injury to start his first game since October but Fitzgerald is bracketed with Sam Coghlan-Murray on the left wing, with a late decision to be made on whether he plays.

Strauss is joined in the front row by Michael Bent and Tadhg Furlong, making his second senior start. Skipper Leo Cullen is given the week off so Tom Denton and Quinn Roux are the second rows. With Shane Jennings also rested, Kevin McLaughlin captains the team in a backrow with Dominic Ryan and academy number eight Jack Conan, a powerful ball carrier who makes his first senior appearance.

In the backs Eoin Reddan remains at scrum-half, with Ireland coach Joe Schmidt deciding against bringing him into the match day squad for Twickenham. He partners Jimmy Gopperth who comes in for Ian Madigan. The rest of the backline of Zane Kirchner, Darragh Fanning, Brendan Macken and Noel Reid is unchanged from the last day. Madigan is on the bench alongside other Ireland squad members Mike McCarthy and Rhys Ruddock.

It's an intriguing Leinster team with a nice mix of players to keep things interesting. Winning in Cardiff isn't a doddle however and Leinster teams have tripped up there in the past, but hopefully this team will win and earn their few pints on Saturday.

Team Lineups

Cardiff Blues

Leinster Rugby
Teams Dan Fish 15 Zane Kirchner
Owen Jenkins 14 Darragh Fanning
Isaia Tuifua 13 Brendan Macken
Gavin Evans 12 Noel Reid
Harry Robinson 11 Luke Fitzgerald / Sam Coghlan-Murray
Gareth Davies 10 Jimmy Gopperth
Lewis Jones 9 Eoin Reddan

Sam Hobbs (C) 1 Michael Bent
Kristian Dacey 2 Richardt Strauss
Scott Andrews 3 Tadhg Furlong
James Down 4 Tom Denton
Filo Paulo 5 Quinn Roux
Macauley Cook6 Kevin McLaughlin (C)
Josh Navidi 7 Dominic Ryan
Robin Copeland 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Rhys Williams 16 Aaron Dundon
Tom Davies 17 Jack O'Connell
Patrick Palmer 18 Edward Byrne
Chris Dicomidis 19 Mike McCarthy
Luke Hamilton 20
Rhys Ruddock
Tomos Williams 21 Luke McGrath
Simon Humberstone 22 Ian Madigan
Tom Williams 23 Darren Hudson

Not Considered
due to Injury

Sean O'Brien,
Andrew Goodman
Officials Referee: Andrew McMenemy (SRU),
Assistant Referees: Gwyn Morris, Greg Morgan (both WRU),
Citing Commissioner: Gwyn Bowden (WRU),
TMO: Paul Adams (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-04-10