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Leinster Rugby vs Dragons,
Donnybrook, Dublin
04th November 2006, 19:30

After two weeks of European action, Leinster return to the bread and butter of the Magners League. They'll be looking to put the disappointment of last week's defeat to Edinburgh behind them. This and next week's match (against Glasgow) have become must-win games if Leinster are to mount a serious title challenge. Leinster will have to take on the Dragons without five of their top internationals who are in training with Ireland. However the squad has been strengthened by the release of Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip, Denis Hickie and Luke Fitzgerald. Heaslip and Hickie in particular will be disappointed not to make the South Africa match squad so hopefully they'll be looking to show Eddie O'Sullivan what he'll be missing.

The Dragons also come into the match on the back of a defeat in Europe. They lost 11-7 to Bristol in the Challenge Cup. They're also without a number of key internationals in Kevin Morgan, Ceri Sweeny, Gareth Cooper, Ian Gough and Michael Owen. However it's never a good idea to under-estimate the Dragons as Leinster found to their cost last season when they lost 31-18 at Rodney Parade. That day, they stuffed Leinster up front and they'll still present a strong challenge this Saturday. Adam Black is a tough prop and Peter Sidoli is a strong presence in the lineout. Flanker Jamie Ringer is an uncompromising operator and he'll do his best to slow down any quick ball that's going. In the backs, American international Mike Hercus is an experienced fly-half and they have a pacy back three in Gareth Wyatt, Nathan Brew and Richard Fussell.

Leinster can't afford to be complacent. A year ago, Leinster were similarly deprived of internationals the week before the New Zealand match. Still they put out a strong team against Edinburgh (them again!) and were confident of victory. Instead they put on the worst performance of the season and were beaten 27-13 with the Gunners helping themselves to a bonus point. This week they will look at the Dragons team and will fancy their chances. But unless they go out with a cold professional outlook, they will be leaving themselves open to another banana skin like Borders.

Leinster certainly have the talent and they have a great adventurous style, but they need to combine adventure with accuracy. When they do that, they'll be unstoppable. Hopefully, a good win on Saturday evening will kick things off.

by Jim O'Connor, © 2006-11-04