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Newport Gwent Dragons vs Leinster Rugby,
Rodney Parade,
13th April 2007, 19:10.
Ref: Malcolm Changleng (SRU)

It's crunch-time for Leinster tonight.  After last week's dismal defeat to Glasgow there's no longer any room for manoeuvre.  They need to win their last four games if they want to win the Magners League.  Okay, if certain results go their way three wins may suffice, but it would be very dangerous to think like that.  They've got to think of the four games as four cup finals.  If they're properly motivated, four wins are possible, but the "motivation" question is key.

Quite frankly, a lot of the players looked hardly interested last week against Glasgow.  Jamie Heaslip and Gordon D'Arcy stood up to be counted, but the rest just seemed to go through the motions against an admirably committed Glasgow team.  If that attitude persists this evening, then they could be in for a hiding because Rodney Parade is a far tougher place to get a win than Hughendon.

Last season the Dragons were devastated at failing to gain a place in the Heineken Cup.  However they've responded well this season and have reached the semi-finals of the Challenge Cup.  And while they're currently third from bottom in the league table, they've got two games in hand which should see them finish comfortably in mid-table.  Rodney Parade is an old-school, intimidating venue which goes a way to explaining why they've won their last ten games on the trot there in all competitions.

Their captain Kevin Morgan misses out through injury tonight so Martyn Thomas deputises at full-back.  American International Paul Emerick has recovered from injury to form a powerful midfield with Nathan Brew.  Brew's brother Aled and Gareth Wyatt man the wings.  Wyatt has an excellent try scoring record against Leinster and will need careful watching.  Welsh internationals Ceri Sweeney and Gareth Cooper make up an experienced half-back pairing.

Their backrow features two Lions in Colin Charvis and Michael Owen, who takes over the captaincy.  The aggressive Jamie Ringer completes a very tidy unit.  The front five features three more internationals in Ian Gough, Luke Charteris and hooker Steve Jones, while Adam Black and Lee Harrison are big, hard-working props.

So all in all it's a tough task to go out and get a win tonight.  Last season Leinster went to the Dragons with nearly a full-strength pack and got absolutely destroyed up front.  The Dragons will be looking for more of the same so the Leinster pack will need to dig deep into their pride to perform tonight.  Hopefully, they will be inspired by the recall of Reggie Corrigan in place of Stan Wright.  Reggie will break Shane Byrne's record for caps for Leinster tonight and hopefully his leadership will come in handy to motivate the troops.  Another change to the pack is the welcome return of Stephen Keogh, who's aggressive ball-carrying was missed badly last week.  Guy Easterby starts ahead of Chris Whitaker at scrum-half and the only other change to the team is the return of Kieran Lewis to outside centre.  Gordon D'arcy moves back to inside centre with Christian Warner dropping out of the squad altogether.

So it's up to Leinster tonight to front up and give it their best shot.  If they do, then a vital win is within their reach.


Newport Gwent Dragons   Leinster Rugby
Martyn Thomas 15 Girvan Dempsey
Gareth Wyatt 14 Shane Horgan
Paul Emerick 13 Kieran Lewis
Nathan Brew 12 Gordon D'Arcy
Aled Brew 11 Denis Hickie
Ceri Sweeney 10 Felipe Contepomi (C)
Gareth Cooper 9 Guy Easterby
Adam Black 1 Reggie Corrigan
Steve Jones 2 Brian Blaney
Lee Harrison 3 Will Green
Ian Gough 4 Trevor Hogan
Luke Charteris 5 Malcolm O'Kelly
Colin Charvis 6 Stephen Keogh
Jamie Ringer 7 Keith Gleeson
Michael Owen (C) 8 Jamie Heaslip
Ben Daly 16 four from
Stan Wright,
Harry Vermaas,
Cian Healy,
Owen Finegan,
Kevin McLaughlin
Rhys Thomas 17
Peter Sidoli 18
Joe Bearman 19
Richard Fussell 20 Chris Whitaker
Aled Thomas 21 Luke Fitzgerald
Alex Walker 22 Rob Kearney

by Jim O'Connor, © 2007-04-13