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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
Guinness Pro14, Round 12
RDS Showground,
Monday, 1st January 2018, 15:15

TV: Live on TG4

Well, well, well, wasn't that a lovely Christmas present!

Hands up, I certainly didn't fancy Leinster's chances on St Stephen's Day against a near first-choice Munster side. The home team looked like they agreed and turned up like the game was already won. But the young Leinster side took advantage of Munster's insipid first half performance and in taking them for 27 points in the first forty, they laid the ground for a fantastic win. To their credit, Munster woke up in the second half and they looked to be reeling in Leinster's lead but then "The Try" happened. Just like Garry Ringrose did in the corresponding fixture two years ago, Jordan Larmour announced himself to the world with an outstanding individual try which effectively ended the game as a contest. Other youngsters like Dan Leavy, Ross Byrne and Rory O'Loughlin were also outstanding in what was a hugely satisfying win for Leo Cullen.

He wasn't the only happy Irish provincial coach however after last week's derbies. Kieran Keane has had a tough first season in charge of Connacht but they put in their best performance of the year in hammering Ulster 44-16 at the Sportsground. Connacht's pack was dominant in the set-piece and looked back to their cutting best in the backline. Keane will want to keep this run of form going and he's only made three changes to his side with hooker Tom McCartney, lock James Cannon and winger Cian Kelleher all coming in for Connacht who, rather strangely, have been allowed to play their front line internationals Kieran Marmion, Bundee Aki and Ultan Dillane for the second game running. These IRFU player management rules get more and more difficult to understand.

For Leinster's it's all change again with thirteen changes from the triumphant side in Limerick. Leinster fans finally get a chance to see James Lowe at home and he's one of only two players to retain his place in the team along with Dan Leavy. Rob Kearney and Fergus McFadden join Lowe in the back three and Garry Ringrose and Noel Reid are the centres. Johnny Sexton returns from injury to captain the team from half-back along with Luke McGrath. It's a measure of Leinster's strength at loosehead prop that this is only the excellent Peter Dooley's first start of the season. He forms a completely new front five with Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony and Ian Nagle. Leavy moves to blindside to allow Josh van der Flier start on the open-side and academy's Max Deegan gets another start at number eight.

It's another strong Leinster team but Connacht will target the front five. It should be a good, competitive game but hopefully Leinster will have enough quality to make it six wins in a row.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Connacht Rugby
Teams Rob Kearney 15 Tiernan O'Halloran
Fergus McFadden 14 Cian Kelleher
Garry Ringrose 13 Bundee Aki
Noel Reid 12 Tom Farrell
James Lowe 11 Matt Healy
Johnny Sexton (C)
10 Jack Carty
Luke McGrath 9 Kieran Marmion

Peter Dooley 1 Denis Coulson
Sean Cronin 2 Tom McCartney
Andrew Porter 3 Finlay Bealham
Ross Molony 4 Ultan Dillane
Ian Nagle 5 James Cannon
Dan Leavy 6 Eoghan Masterson
Josh van der Flier 7 Jarrad Butler
Max Deegan 8 John Muldoon (C)

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Shane Delahunt
Ed Byrne 17 Peter McCabe
Michael Bent 18 Conor Carey
Mick Kearney 19 Quinn Roux
Scott Fardy 20
Naulia Dawai
Nick McCarthy 21 Caolin Blade
Cathal Marsh 22 Eoin Griffin
Rory O'Loughlin 23 Niyi Adeolokun

Not Considered
due to Injury
Tom Daly,
Jamie Heaslip,
Joey Carbery,
Rhys Ruddock,
Adam Byrne,
Sean O'Brien,
Richardt Strauss,
James Ryan,
Jack McGrath

Jake Heenan,
Denis Buckley,
JP Cooney,
Eoin McKeon,
Sean O'Brien,
Andrew Browne,
Steve Crosbie,
Rory Scholes
Officials Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-12-31