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Leinster Rugby vs Newport Gwent Dragons
Guinness Pro12 Round 14
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Sunday, 15th February 2015, 15:00

Television: Not being televised

It does seem like an age since Leinster last played. Obviously the focus has been on Ireland for the last three weeks but the game over in Wasps feels like a distant memory. Or perhaps we would just prefer to forget it?

That game summed up where Leinster are at the moment. The first half, when Leinster were totally dominant, gave the fans a taste of what they could be. The second half however, when they pretty much collapsed, showed fans where they really are.

To even get that draw, they had to rely on Andy Goode badly shanking a last-second drop-goal effort. Their good fortune continued on the Sunday, when Montpellier got a highly unlikely win over Toulouse to hand Leinster the home quarter-final they thought they had blown the previous day. So now Leinster will host a resurgent Bath team in the quarter-final in the Aviva Stadium on Easter weekend. Before that though they have an important run of games in the Pro12 where they will look to cement their play in the top four and perhaps edge their way into the top two.

Leinster are in action for the next four weeks in a row, meaning they have two weekends which are clashing with Ireland fixtures. As Leinster have the most players in the Ireland squad of all the provinces, this will lead to pressure on the squad in terms of resources. With that being said, they've actually named a pretty strong team for this Sunday's game.

Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden have recovered from their respective injuries to take their place in a back three with Darragh Fanning. Ben Te'o and Noel Reid, who played well together against Cardiff, get another run in the centre. Jimmy Gopperth and Luke McGrath are the half backs.

In the pack Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong make up a strong front row. Tom Denton and Kane Douglas are the locks and Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings and Jack Conan form a powerful back row. Mike McCarthy and Luke Fitzgerald were training with Ireland for most of the week so they're named on the bench while scrum-half John Cooney has been recalled from a loan spell with Connacht to provide cover during the Six Nations.

The Dragons are having their usual poor season with only three wins and ten losses. In fairness to them they've been fairly competitive in most of the games and have picked up the more losing bonus points than anyone else in the league. They have at least made it through to the quarter-finals of the European Challenge Cup but that was mainly due to Stade Francais not trying a leg in the competition.

One of the bonuses of being the weakest team in Wales is that they don't have too many players in the Wales squad. Talented winger Hallam Amos was released from the extended international squad so he's named in a useful back three with Tom Prydie and Jason Tovey. Jack Dixon is an exciting prospect at inside centre and he's paired with Pat Leach. Dorian Jones and Jonathan Evans are the half backs.

Owen Evans, T. Rhys Thomas and Brok Harris are the front row, while Welsh international Andrew Coombs is named in the second row alongside South African skipper Rynard Landman. James Thomas and Nick Crosswell make up a back row with busy openside Nic Cudd who's widely seen as their best player this season. There's some experience on the bench in the shape of former internationals Ian Gough and Richie Rees.

After a three week break Leinster will be a little rusty but there should be more than enough talent on the team to take care of this Dragons team comfortably enough.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Newport Gwent Dragons
Teams Dave Kearney 15 Jason Tovey
Fergus McFadden 14 Tom Prydie
Ben Te'o 13 Pat Leach
Noel Reid 12 Jack Dixon
Darragh Fanning 11 Hallam Amos
Jimmy Gopperth 10 Dorian Jones
Luke McGrath 9 Jonathan Evans

Michael Bent 1 Owen Evans
Richardt Strauss 2 T. Rhys Thomas
Tadhg Furlong 3 Brok Harris
Tom Denton 4 Andrew Coombs
Kane Douglas 5 Rynard Landman (C)
Dominic Ryan6 James Thomas
Shane Jennings (C)
7 Nic Cudd
Jack Conan 8 Nick Crosswell

Replacements Aaron Dundon 16 Rhys Buckley
Peter Dooley 17 Boris Stankovich
Jamie Hagan 18 Dan Way
Mike McCarthy 19 Ian Gough
Josh Van Der Flier 20
James Benjamin
John Cooney21 Richie Rees
Cathal Marsh 22 Ashley Smith
Luke Fitzgerald 23 Matthew Pewtner

Not Considered
due to Injury
Edward Byrne,
Rhys Ruddock,
Kevin McLaughlin,
Dan Leavy,
Zane Kirchner

Lee Byrne,
Ross Wardle,
Aled Brew
Officials Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU, 3rd competition game),
Assistant Referees: Stuart Gaffikin, Oisin Quinn (both IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Tim Lowry (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2015-02-14