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Leinster Rugby vs Cardiff Blues
Guinness Pro12 Round 18
RDS Showground, Dublin,
Saturday, 25th March 2017, 15:00

Television: Live TG4/SKY

While it was an up and down Six Nations championship for Ireland, it was pretty much perfect for Leinster.

From their four games they earned the maximum 20 points of the 20 available to take first place in the table. What's more, they scored another 27 tries in the four games to smash the overall try-scoring record for the regular season with five games left to play. Last time out against the Scarlets, they produced an outstanding second half to turn a tight match at half-time into another rout. It was one of Leinster's best performances of the season and now the challenge for Leinster is to integrate the internationals back into the team without losing that momentum. Next week, they have a massive game at home to Wasps in the quarter-final of the Champions Cup which could define their season. Wasps are also leading their league and they're an outstanding side who also aren't shy about scoring a try either. It promises to be an epic match.

First up though, Leinster face Cardiff at home looking to keep their six-match winning run in the league going. Cardiff had started the league season very well, winning their first four games before losing narrowly to Leinster at home. However the wheels have come off their campaign since then and they've only won four of the twelve games since that tight battle in the Arms Park. Their bid to finish in the top six now looks tenuous as they're in eighth place two points behind Connacht, who have a game in hand on them.

Their coach Danny WIlson has named a team showing five changes to the team that lost against Munster three weeks ago. Kristian Dacey returns to start at hooker in the

only change to the starting pack. Blaine Scully and Alex Cuthbert come in on the wings, partnering full-back Matthew Morgan in the back three. Rey Lee-Lo replaces Willis Halaholo at outside centre and Tomos Williams is given the nod at scrum-half.

Leinster make four changes to the team that walloped the Scarlets and there's a welcome return for skipper Isa Nacewa. Interestingly, Joey Carbery is left at full back, where he's been so electric, and instead Nacewa named is on the left wing instead of Fergus McFadden. Rory O'Loughlin makes a welcome return from injury to replace Zane Kirchner at outside centre.

In the pack Cian Healy comes in at loosehead in the only change to the front five, while Josh van der Flier's return at openside means a reshuffle in the back row with Dan Leavy going to blindside and Rhys Ruddock going to number eight.

This is Leinster's second last league game at home and they face three tricky away trips to Ospreys, Connacht and Ulster as well as a home match against Glasgow that won't be a gimme. So they need to ensure they win tomorrow and all indications are that they will.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Cardiff Blues
Teams Joey Carbery 15 Matthew Morgan
Adam Byrne 14 Alex Cuthbert
Rory O'Loughlin 13 Rey Lee-Lo
Noel Reid 12 Steven Shingler
Isa Nacewa (C)
11 Blaine Scully (C)
Ross Byrne 10 Gareth Anscombe
Luke McGrath
9 Tomos Williams

Cian Healy 1 Corey Domachowski
Richardt Strauss
2 Kristian Dacey
Michael Bent 3 Anton Peikrishvili
Ross Molony 4 George Earle
Hayden Triggs 5 Jarrad Hoeata
Dan Leavy 6 Macauley Cook
Josh van der Flier 7 Josh Navidi
Rhys Ruddock 8 Nick Williams

Replacements James Tracy 16 Matthew Rees
Peter Dooley 17 Gethin Jenkins
Mike Ross 18 Scott Andrews
Mick Kearney 19 Sion Bennett
Max Deegan 20
Ellis Jenkins
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Lloyd Williams
Tom Daly 22 Willis Halaholo
Fergus McFadden 23 Tom James

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jordi Murphy,
James Ryan,
Sean Cronin,
Jeremy Loughman,
Dominic Ryan,
Dave Kearney,
Peadar Timmins,
Rob Kearney,
Jamie Heaslip

Officials Referee: George Clancy (IRFU - 89th tournament game),
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (FIR) AR2: Richard Kerr (IRFU),
TMO: Stefano Penne (FIR)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-03-24