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Connacht Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Pro-14 Conference B Round 5
The Showgrounds, Galway,
Saturday, 29th September 2018, 17:15

TV: Live on Eir Sports/TG4

After a decent if relatively low key start to the season for Leinster, it starts to ramp up now.

First up are two tough inter-provincial derbies away to Connacht and at home to Munster before the visit of Wasps to the RDS and then a trip to Toulouse in the Heineken Cup (isn't it great that we can call it that again?). We've seen in the past where the results in these block of games can set the tone for the rest of the season. Leinster looked in fairly decent shape last week though. The first half was a fairly turgid affair but it was lit up by the superb movement and passing for the James Lowe try and Leinster played some nice stuff after that to win comfortably. However they will face a big rise in intensity when they take on Connacht in Galway tomorrow evening.

Connacht never have much of an issue getting themselves up for a match against Leinster but they'll come into this game with a particular spring in their step after their fine win last week against the Scarlets. After a disappointing year under the tutelage of the dour Ciaran Keane, Andy Friend has been brought in as head coach and his playing style and more sunny demeanor already seems a better fit with Connacht.

Connacht will bring their usual fire and spite to proceedings seeking revenge for all the ills perpetrated on them by "those D4 feckers" personified by Leinster. However Leinster themselves won't be short of motivation either and this goes back to Leinster's final regular game of last season. It was John Muldoon's final match and while no one begrudged him a win on his last day, Leinster's performance was so bad they were trounced to the tune of a 47-10 defeat. Connacht made so secret of their enjoyment of Leinster's humiliation and though Leinster won their final three games of the season to secure the double, that defeat rankled with them and rightly so. No one likes to get shown up like that and their professional pride was hurt.

Leinster are clearly trying to avoid what happened the last day and they've gone with a very strong side indeed, the closest they've named this season to full-strength. Rob Kearney comes in to the number 15 jersey with Jordan Larmour moving to the right wing. James Lowe continues on the left wing. Joe Tomane comes in for his second start of the season to partner Garry Ringrose in the centre and Luke McGrath and captain Johnny Sexton continue at half-back.

Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong are the front row and Devin Toner and Australian international Scott Fardy form the second row. Rhys Ruddock comes in to join Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan in the back row and Sean O'Brien is fit enough to be named on the bench.

For Connacht, Andy Friend has made just injury enforced changes. Their hugely influential skipper Jarrad Butler misses out due to injury and he's replaced by fellow Australian Colby Fainga'a at openside with hooker Dave Heffernan taking over the captaincy. The other change is Ultan Dillane replacing the stricken Gavin Thornbury at lock. Former Leinster under-20s player Paul Boyle, who has had an outstanding start to the season, is left on the bench with Robin Copeland's experience preferred instead at number eight.

Leinster's selection strategy has been a little surprising this season. With the three big games to come in the new few weeks, it might have been expected for Leinster to rest several internationals this week but instead they've gone with a very strong selection again. Who knows, maybe they'll stick the B's out against Munster next week?

Either way we're not complaining that both sides will go at it at near full-strength which should make for a compelling game. Hopefully Leinster can put some manners on Connacht this time and we might even get Cian Healy to kick a conversion for good measure.

Team Lineups

Connacht Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Tiernan O'Halloran 15 Rob Kearney
Cian Kelleher 14 Jordan Larmour
Tom Farrell 13 Garry Ringrose
Bundee Aki 12 Joe Tomane
Matt Healy 11 James Lowe
Jack Carty 10 Johnny Sexton (C)
Kieran Marmion 9 Luke McGrath

Denis Buckley 1 Cian Healy
Dave Heffernan (C)
2 Sean Cronin
Finlay Bealham 3 Tadhg Furlong
Ultan Dillane 4 Devin Toner
Quinn Roux 5 Scott Fardy
Sean O'Brien 6 Rhys Ruddock
Colby Fainga'a 7 Josh van der Flier
Robin Copeland 8 Jack Conan

Replacements Tom McCartney 16 James Tracy
Peter McCabe 17 Ed Byrne
Dominic Robertson-McCoy 18 Andrew Porter
James Cannon 19 Ross Molony
Paul Boyle 20
Sean O'Brien
Caolin Blade 21 Nick McCarthy
Craig Ronaldson 22 Ross Byrne
Niyi Adeolokun 23 Rory O'Loughlin

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jarrad Butler,
Gavin Thornbury

Will Connors,
Barry Daly,
Jack McGrath,
Tom Daly,
James Ryan,
Dan Leavy
Officials Referee: John Lacey (IRFU),
Assistant Referees: Andrew Brace (IRFU), Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU),
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-09-28