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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 29th December 2012, 19:45

Television: Live TG4

Leinster come into the second Christmas inter-pro desperate for a win. Three defeats in a row simply doesn't sit well and even if they came against two of the form teams in Europe in Clermont and Ulster, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt will be very anxious to get a win to restore morale. Leinster played some good rugby up in Ravenhill but once the scrum started to crumble there was only going to be one winner.

Both teams were clearly feeling the effects of the back to back Heineken Cup matches and the quality of the match wasn't as high as expected. However Ulster looked the hungrier team and they were clearly desperate to end a losing streak against Leinster that stretched back seven games. Leinster probably deserved a losing bonus point for their efforts though and they were unlucky to just miss out on that front.

But now it's Connacht again and Leinster won't be short of motivation as they wince at the memory of the game played earlier in the season in Galway. That game produced a record win for Connacht over Leinster as they scored five tries in a 34-06 win. True it was an under-strength Leinster team that night but Connacht were excellent, over-powering Leinster up front and opening them up at will out wide.

With the controversy over Mike McCarthy's transfer to Leinster, they won't be short of motivation for a repeat dose and their first win in Dublin in the league in ten years. They've made four changes to the team which were unfortunate to lose narrowly to Munster last week. Lansdowne winger Matt Healy, who played for Leinster 'A' last season, gets a first start on the left wing. Eoin Griffin is back at outside centre which means South African Danie Poolman moves to the right wing. Youngsters Robbie Henshaw, Dave McSharry and Kieran Marmion are all in great form this season and the backline is completed by experienced old hand Dan Parks.

In the front row young Denis Buckley starts in place of Brett Wilkinson at loosehead and he'll form a front row with two former Leinster players in Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White who skippers the team. With McCarthy rested on Ireland management orders, his old pal Michael Swift comes back from injury to partner George Naoupu in the second row. Andrew Browne, Johnny O'Connor and Eoin McKeon continue as the back row.

As with the game earlier in the season Leinster's resources are stretched by injuries and international players being rested. So there are nine personnel changes with a few positional switches as well. Andrew Conway moves from the wing to full back, the position he made his name in as a schoolboy in Blackrock. He becomes the sixth player to wear the number 15 jersey for Leinster this season, after Isa Nacewa, Ian Madigan, Rob Kearney, Dave Kearney and Noel Reid. The in-form Fergus McFadden switches from left wing to the right which allows Fionn Carr to come back on the left wing. Carr has struggled badly in his games against his old team since returning to Leinster and he really needs a big performance to get his Leinster career back on track.

Brendan Macken and Andrew Goodman are the centres and Ian Madigan and Isaac Boss are the half-backs. Heinke van der Merwe and Aaron Dundon come in to start in the front row alongside Michael Bent, who will be looking to restore his reputation after suffering badly in the scrum up in Ravenhill. Ben Marshall gets his first start at lock for Leinster after impressing earlier in the season in the back row. Devin Toner is his partner and there's a whole new back row in Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings and Jordi Murphy, who starts his first game for Leinster at number eight.

It's a tough game for Leinster against a strong and motivated Connacht team but hopefully the backing from the RDS faithful will spur the young team onto a much needed win.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Connacht Rugby
Teams Andrew Conway 15 Robbie Henshaw
Fergus McFadden 14 Danie Poolman
Brendan Macken 13 Eoin Griffin
Andrew Goodman
12 Dave McSharry
Fionn Carr 11 Matt Healy
Ian Madigan 10 Dan Parks
Isaac Boss 9 Kieran Marmion

Heinke van der Merwe 1 Denis Buckley
Aaron Dundon 2 Jason Harris-Wright
Michael Bent
3 Nathan White (C)
Ben Marshall 4 Michael Swift
Devin Toner 5 George Naoupu
Rhys Ruddock 6 Andrew Browne
Shane Jennings (C)
7 Johnny O'Connor
Jordi Murphy 8 Eoin McKeon

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Ethienne Reynecke
Jack McGrath 17 Brett Wilkinson
Mike Ross
18 Ronan Loughney
Leo Cullen 19 Mick Kearney
Dominic Ryan 20 Eoghan Grace
John Cooney 21 Paul O'Donohoe
Noel Reid 22 Matthew Jarvis
Adam Byrne 23 Tiernan O'Halloran
Not considered
due to injury
Luke Fitzgerald,
Mark Flanagan,
David Doyle,
Rob Kearney,
Darren Hudson,
Brian O'Driscoll,
Richardt Strauss,
Isa Nacewa,
Eoin O'Malley,
Dave Kearney,
Damien Browne,
Kevin McLaughlin
  John Muldoon,
Frank Murphy,
Gavin Duffy,
Willie Faloon,
Dave Nolan,
Kyle Tonnetti
Match Officials Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Mark Patton (both IRFU),
TMO:  Jude Quinn (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2012-12-28