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Leinster Rugby vs Newport Gwent Dragons
RaboDirect Pro12 Round 14
RDS Showground, Dublin
Friday, 14th February 2014, 19:45

Television: Live - TG4

At this time of year the Pro12 is inevitably over-shadowed by the Six Nations championship, especially when Ireland are going well. However the points earned at this time of year still count exactly the same when they're totted up at the end of the season. Last season, after a stuttering first half of the season in the league, Leinster used the four-game period around the Six Nations to drastically improve their league position.

They won all four games and earned try bonus points in three of them. Ultimately it helped them secure second place in the table, which got them a vital home semi-final. So it was a nice cherry on top of a great rugby weekend to see such a young Leinster win so well away in Zebre last Sunday. It was also quite pleasing that three of the try-scorers, John Cooney, Noel Reid and Darren Hudson are all recent graduates from the academy while two current academy members, Sam Coghlan Murray and Tadgh Furlong, both made accomplished first starts for the seniors.

Because of the influx of players back from the Ireland squad, most of these lads have been left out or benched this week but they should get another crack at things away to Cardiff next Thursday evening. Though it may disrupt things somewhat, the players returning from the Ireland squad need game time. Two players in particular who would have been in the Ireland match-squad but for injury are Eoin Reddan and Luke Fitzgerald. They were both mentioned in the build-up to the game as being likely to play but while Reddan makes it, the injury-cursed Fitzgerald does not.

Reddan comes to start in a Leinster team showing seven changes from the one that began the game last week. Reddan will partner Ian Madigan this week, who comes in for Jimmy Gopperth after finishing last week's game brightly. Fergus McFadden makes his first Leinster start since October on the right wing and Darragh Fanning switches over to the left. Brendan Macken and Noel Reid stay in the centre slots.

In the pack the Ireland front row replacements last week, Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Martin Moore come in en masse to start this week. Leo Cullen and Mike McCarthy remain in the second row though and the final change sees Rhys Ruddock return from Ireland duty to take his place in a strong-looking backrow with Shane Jennings and Jordi Murphy.

The Dragons are having a reasonable enough season by their standards under new director of rugby Lyn Jones, who joined the club in June. They've won five out of their twelve games so far and lie seventh in the table. Their home form has been strong and really they should have beaten Leinster earlier in the season in Rodney Parade. Their away form though has been poor with only one win on their travels in the last year.

The Dragons are only missing two international players in Taulupe Faletau and Andrew Coombs so they are able to name a pretty strong team. They have a strong middle five to the team in half-backs Jason Tovey and Richie Rees and the back row of Lewis Evans, Nic Cudd and Netani Talei. Hallam Amos, Ashley Smith and Will Harries are dangerous runners in the backs and they're captained by the hugely experienced Rob Sidoli from the second row.

Leinster will approach the game with plenty of confidence but with rain forecast for tomorrow evening, the home fans might need to be patient. Leinster should have enough to win comfortably enough in the end though.

Finally, last month Leinster lost one of it's best and more loyal fans in Carl Whelan, who was a fixture down the front of the large terrace in the RDS with his family and his beloved Lenny the Lion toy sitting on the hedge row. As a small tribute, the terrace will start a chant honouring Carl at the first major break of play approximately five minutes into the game, please listen out for it and join in if you like.

Our deepest sympathies are with Carl's family and his many friends.

Forever Blue. RIP.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Newport Gwent Dragons
Teams Zane Kirchner 15 Hallam Amos
Fergus McFadden 14 Matthew Pewtner
Brendan Macken 13 Pat Leach
Noel Reid 12 Ashley Smith
Darragh Fanning 11 Will Harries
Ian Madigan 10 Jason Tovey
Eoin Reddan
9 Richie Rees

Jack McGrath 1 Owen Evans
Sean Cronin
2 T. Rhys Thomas
Martin Moore
3 Nathan Buck
Leo Cullen (C) 4 Cory Hill
Mike McCarthy
5 Rob Sidoli (C)
Rhys Ruddock
6 Lewis Evans
Shane Jennings 7 Nic Cudd
Jordi Murphy
8 Netani Talei

Replacements Aaron Dundon 16 Sam Parry
Michael Bent 17 Aaron Coundley
Tadhg Furlong 18 Francisco Chaparro
Tom Denton 19 Matthew Screech
Dominic Ryan 20
Jevon Groves
Isaac Boss
21 Wayne Evans
Jimmy Gopperth 22 Steffan Jones
Darren Hudson 23 Ross Wardle

Not Considered
due to Injury
Sean O'Brien,
Conor Gilsenan,
Andrew Goodman,
Luke Fitzgerald


Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR),
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Barrie O'Connell (both IRFU),
TMO: Kevin Beggs (IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: John Cole (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2014-02-28

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