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Newport Gwent Dragons vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 16
Rodney Parade, Newport,
Friday, 24th February 2017, 19:30

Television: TV Blackout once again

Last week against Edinburgh, Leinster scored six tries for the second game running but it came at a considerable cost. Leinster were losing players to injury right from the start and in the second half they had a ragball rovers look to them with the starting out-half at full back, the starting scrum-half on the wing and the reserve hooker on the flank. They actually finished the game with 14 players as Joey Carbery's lack of match fitness meant he couldn't complete the 80 minutes. The strange thing was, they seemed to play better the more disrupted they became and there was a considerable improvement in the second half. However they are struggling for numbers a little this weekend and they face a tricky trip to Rodney Parade, a place they've lost on their last two visits.

Remarkably, considering the respective fortunes of the two teams, Leinster's recent record over the last three seasons against the Dragons is played five, won two, lost three! Newport on a wet Friday evening (and it always seems to be wet) is not a pleasant place to play and the Dragons often taken full advantage of it. The Dragons are in 10th spot in the table with only four wins in the league this season plus they're out of Europe. Yet they'll quietly fancy their chances tomorrow evening, particularly against a weakened Leinster side. Their coach Kingsley Jones has picked a team showing just two changes from the team that ran Connacht close in Galway last week. Carl Meyer returns at full back alongside wings Adam Hughes and Pat Howard and Jack Dixon joins Tyler Morgan in the centre.

For Leinster it's about patching a team together as even Leinster's famous depth in the backrow is challenged with six internationals either injured or on Ireland duty. So Rhys Ruddock has made a timely return from injury to start at blindside with Peadar Timmins making his first Leinster start at openside and Jack Conan retaining his position at number eight. Leo Cullen has named a team showing 12 changes in all, including two positional switches. Peter Dooley starts again at loosehead but Richardt Strauss starts at hooker and also skippers the team while Michael Bent comes in for Mike Ross at tighthead. The second row of Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy are the only unit unchanged from last week.

In a much re-jigged backline, Joey Carbery moves to fullback and Adam Byrne and Fergus McFadden come in on the wings. Zane Kirchner moves to outside centre alongside Noel Reid who has shaken off a knock to start and Ross Byrne and Jamison Gibson-Park come in at half back. Ed Byrne will make his first senior senior appearance in nearly two years after two serious knee injuries and Hayden Triggs is back from suspension to add some experience from the bench.

This is a genuinely awkward tie, but having gotten back in the top two last week, Leinster need to win to stay there with both Munster and Ospreys at home this weekend. It could be a nervy one, but hopefully the Twitter feed gives us a good result in the end.

Team Lineups


Leinster Rugby
Teams Carl Meyer 15 Joey Carbery
Adam Hughes 14 Adam Byrne
Tyler Morgan 13 Zane Kirchner
Jack Dixon 12 Noel Reid
Pat Howard 11 Fergus McFadden
Dorian Jones 10 Ross Byrne
Tavis Knoyle 9 Jamison Gibson-Park

Sam Hobbs 1 Peter Dooley
Elliot Dee 2 Richardt Strauss (C)
Brok Harris 3 Michael Bent
Nick Crosswell 4 Ross Molony
Rynard Landman 5 Mike McCarthy
Ollie Griffiths 6 Rhys Ruddock
Nic Cudd 7 Peadar Timmins
Lewis Evans (C)
8 Jack Conan

Replacements Rhys Buckley 16 James Tracy
Thomas Davies 17 Ed Byrne
Lloyd Fairbrother 18 Mike Ross
Matthew Screech 19 Hayden Triggs
Harrison Keddie 20
Max Deegan
Sarel Pretorius 21 Luke McGrath
Angus O'Brien 22 Cathal Marsh
Adam Warren 23 Barry Daly

Not Considered
Due to Injury

Jordi Murphy,
James Ryan,
Sean Cronin,
Tom Daly,
Jeremy Loughman,
Josh van der Flier,
Dominic Ryan,
Rory O'Loughlin,
Dave Kearney,
Isa Nacewa
Officials Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR),
Assistant Referees: Claudio Blessano (FIR) Robert Price (WRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-02-23