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Leinster Rugby vs Southern Kings
Guinness Pro14, Conference B, Round 16
RDS Arena, Dublin,
Friday, 23rd February 2018, 19:35

TV: Live on TG4

It was back to winning ways for Leinster last week but the mood in the crowd at the final whistle was far from euphoric.

The win stretched Leinster's lead to three points over the Scarlets at the top of the table in Conference B but really it should have be five. Having scored 3 tries by the 41st minute Leinster had nearly a whole half of rugby to get the bonus point try but failed to do so. Then to add insult to injury an imploding scrum allowed the Scarlets to kick a penalty to snatch a losing bonus point in the final play of the game. To be fair, it was well deserved for a hugely spirited performance in which the Scarlets caused Leinster massive problems not least at the breakdown where Kildare's Tadhg Beirne terrorised them again to an almost cartoonish extent. Scarlets coach Wayne Pivac would have been the far happier coach leaving the stadium last week and will fancy his chances of wiping out Leinster's lead when they meet again on Saturday week in Llanelli.

Before that Leinster need to take care of the poor old Southern Kings tomorrow evening on a crowded night of rugby clashing with the Ireland Under-20's match down the road in Donnybrook and France v Italy on the telly. The Kings have taken over from Zebre as the league's whipping boys and have lost all of their fifteen games this season. At least their fellow South Africans the Cheetahs have been reasonably competitive and sit third in the table in Conference A, but the Kings have been a shambles from day one. Most of their defeats have been hidings and the best they have had to offer so far were too high scoring bonus point defeats at home to Ulster and the Scarlets. It's hard not feel some sympathy with them though as they were disbanded and then thrown together at the last minute and they do try to play in a pleasing and positive manner. But they badly need some investment in their playing squad for next season.

At least they have the comfort of knowing this will be their final away game of the season as their last five matches are all at home. Their coach Deon Davids has named a team which sees a shuffle of the back three with Michael Makase, who played on the left wing against Ospreys, move to his favoured position of right wing. Anthonie Volmink has been restored to left wing and Yaw Penxe, who was at right wing in the last game, moves to fullback. The forward pack remains largely the same except in the back row where Andisa Ntsila switches from flank to number eight and Eital Bredenkamp comes in at flanker.

For Leinster there's a first start for Ciaran Frawley, who came on early and played in a composed manner last weekend. With Ross Byrne carrying a hip injury, all of Leinster's four out-halves are either injured or in the Ireland squad, but Frawley should do just fine. He's partnered by Nick McCarthy who makes just his second start for Leinster. There's a welcome return from injury in the centre for Garry Ringrose and skipper Isa Nacewa, while Barry Daly and Dave Kearney come into the back three alongside James Lowe, who was outstanding last week.

In the front row twins Ed and Bryan Byrne start a senior Leinster match for the first time together alongside Michael Bent. Mick Kearney and Ian Nagle form a new second row pairing and Will Connors comes in to make his second start alongside Josh Murphy and Max Deegan in the back row. James Tracy is fit again to take a spot on the bench and former Ireland under-20 cap Adam Coyle of St. Marys has been called up to be the tighthead replacement on the bench.

It's a fairly inexperienced Leinster side but they still should have enough to win handily tomorrow evening.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Southern Kings
Teams Dave Kearney 15 Yaw Penxe
Barry Daly 14 Michael Makase
Garry Ringrose 13 Berton Klaasen
Isa Nacewa (C)
12 Luzuko Vulindlu
James Lowe 11 Anthonie Volmink
Ciaran Frawley 10 Martin Du Toit
Nick McCarthy 9 Rowan Gouws

Ed Byrne 1 Schalk Ferreira
Bryan Byrne 2 Michael Willemse (C)
Michael Bent 3 Pieter Scholtz
Mick Kearney 4 Stephan Greeff
Ian Nagle 5 Arthur De Wee
Josh Murphy 6 Eital Bredenkamp
Will Connors 7 Martinus Burger
Max Deegan 8 Andisa Ntsila

Replacements James Tracy 16 Stephan Coetzee
Peter Dooley 17 Johan Smith
Adam Coyle 18 Luvuyo Pupuma
Ross Molony 19 Lindokuhle Welemu
Peadar Timmins 20
Ruaan Lerm
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Juan-Phillip Smith
Noel Reid 22 Barend Janse van Rensburg
Jordan Larmour 23 Jacques Nel

Not Considered
due to Injury
Tom Daly,
Josh van der Flier,
Robbie Henshaw,
Rhys Ruddock,
Caelan Doris,
Jamie Heaslip,
Sean O'Brien,
Cathal Marsh,
Ross Byrne,
Luke McGrath,
Rory O'Loughlin,
Tadgh Furlong

Officials Referee: Dan Jones (WRU),
Assistant Referees: Rhys Thomas (WRU), Ken Imbusch (IRFU),
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-02-22