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Newport Gwent Dragons vs Leinster Rugby
Rodney Parade, Newport
Friday, 09 May 2008, 19:10

Television: Live - Setanta Ireland

Is it over already? It doesn't seem eight months ago that Leinster welcomed Edinburgh to the redeveloped RDS for the first match of the season. Twenty five games later, we're looking at the final match of what has been ultimately a successful season. There were bad times obviously with the Heineken Cup exit at the Group stages. But the way the squad regrouped and won the Magners League showed a focus and consistency not seen in previous seasons. Leinster fans are already looking forward to next season with genuine belief and confidence in the squad.

After securing the league last week, Leinster have essentially nothing to play for. However, given how they've often struggled to win in Wales in the past (two away wins in Wales in the previous three seasons) coach Michael Chieka will be very keen to secure a clean sweep in Wales this season. Indeed it's been Leinster's superb away form which has been the most encouraging part of the campaign. They only lost away to Glasgow and Edinburgh in the league this season and both those games were lost with the final play of the game. Now they have to bring that type of away form in the Heineken Cup next season.

Leinster make wholesale changes in the pack as the squad players are given a chance to start a match. Trevor Hogan is the only forward retained from the last day and he partners Devin Toner in the second row. There is a completely new front row of Cian Healy, Brian Blaney and Stephen Knoop, who'll all have their own points to prove to the management. There's also a completely new back-row with Cameron Jowitt at blindside, Stephen Keogh at eight and Kevin McLaughlin named for the first time at open-side. They may be a bit unfamiliar with each other but it's a mobile looking pack that will look to get the ball in hand.

By contrast there are only three changes in the backs. Chris Keane comes in for Chris Whitaker at scrum-half to partner Jonny Sexton. Michael Berne plays his last game for Leinster tomorrow before returning to Australia and he partners captain Brian O'Driscoll in the centre. The only other change is the return of Luke Fitzgerald on the left wing in place of Rob Kearney.

The Dragons secured their place in the Heineken Cup by way of an 18 - 10 win over the Ospreys on Tuesday. They're also relieved not to face a nerve-shredding play-off with an Italian team they've had to negotiate in the last two seasons. To that end they've also rung the changes for tomorrow. Only Gareth Wyatt, Jason Tovey, Richard Fussell and Steve Jones remain from the team that started at the RDS.

With the pressure off both teams, here's hoping for an open match with both teams looking to score tries. After all the tense, nail-biting matches this season, it would be nice to finish with a game that's a bit of fun.

Team Lineups

Newport Gwent Dragons
Leinster Rugby
Teams Kevin Morgan 15 Girvan Dempsey
Gareth Wyatt
14 Shane Horgan
Rhodri Gomer-Davies / Paul Emerick 13 Brian O'Driscoll (C)
Phillip Dollman 12 Michael Berne
Richard Fussell
11 Luke Fitzgerald
Jason Tovey 10 Jonathan Sexton
Wayne Evans 9 Chris Keane

Hugh Gustafson 1 Cian Healy
Steve Jones 2 Brian Blaney
Patrick Palmer 3 Stephen Knoop
Andrew Hall 4 Trevor Hogan
Luke Charteris 5 Devin Toner
Colin Charvis (C) 6 Cameron Jowitt
James Harris 7 Kevin McLaughlin
Joe Bearman / Lewis Evans 8 Stephen Keogh

Replacements Ben Daly 16 Bernard Jackman
Adam Black 17 Ronan McCormack
Adam Jones 18 Malcolm O'Kelly
Lewis Evans / Richard Parks 19 Richie Leyden
Paul Emerick / Gareth Maule 20 Chris Whitaker
Ceri Sweeney 21 Christian Warner
Alex Walker 22 Gary Brown

Not considered
due to injury


Gordon D'Arcy
Leo Cullen

by Jim O'Connor, © 2008-05-08

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