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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
Pro Rugby
RDS Arena, Dublin
Saturday, 2nd January 2021, 19:35

TV: Live on Eir Sports

Happy New Year!

Goodbye and good riddance to 2020 and hopefully 2021 will eventually be a lot happier for all of us. However Covid 19 is still a big problem and it hit Leinster last week forcing the cancellation of the Munster game. Two players eventually tested positive and we wish them a speedy recovery. Connacht have also reported that a number of players have tested positive but they're able to field a team for tomorrow evening's game.

Connacht had a good start to the season but have lost their last three games in a row against Racing, Bristol and an under strength Ulster side last time out. As they're effectively out of Europe, the Pro 12 is their only hope for silverware this season. Head coach Andy Friend has named a strong side with four changes from the last day.

Dominic Robertson-McCoy and Gavin Thornbury come in to start in the front five, alongside Denis Buckley, Shane Delahunt and Quinn Roux, who captains the team from the second row. Sean Masterson comes in to start at number eight with his brother Eoghan at blindside and former Marys player Conor Oliver at openside. Caolin Blade and Jack Carty continue at half-back. Former Leinster centre Tom Daly partners Sammy Arnold in midfield. The final change sees Peter Sullivan come in to start on the right wing, which means John Porch moves to full back with Alex Wootton named on the left wing. Both Porch and Wooton have been in fine try scoring form this season. Former Australian Sevens international Ben O'Donnell will make his debut off the bench if called upon.

For Leinster there are two debuts as Max O'Reilly and Andrew Smith are named at full back and right wing respectively. Both were impressive in Ireland's curtailed Under-20 Six Nations campaign early last year. Dave Kearney completes the back three and Jimmy O'Brien moves to centre where he partners the fit again Rory O'Loughlin. Ciaran Frawley was to start at number ten, but was forced to withdraw from the squad on Friday morning, with Johnny Sexton taking his place at outhalf. With McGrath leading the team in training all week, it was decided that he should retain the captaincy come match day.

In the pack Peter Dooley, James Tracy and Michael Bent come in to start in the front row, with Bent making his 150th Leinster appearance. Ross Molony and Devin Toner are in the boiler room while Ryan Baird moves from the second row to start at number six. Scott Penny and Dan Leavy complete a very mobile backrow. There is further good news on the injury front as Sean Cronin, Ed Byrne, Jack Conan and Will Connors are all fit to be named on the bench.

Connacht famously almost won in the RDS two years ago. They'll need a similar style of performance to have any chance of winning tomorrow evening.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby

Connacht Rugby
Teams Max O'Reilly 15 John Porch
Andrew Smith 14 Peter Sullivan
Jimmy O'Brien 13 Sammy Arnold
Rory O'Loughlin 12 Tom Daly
Dave Kearney 11 Alex Wootton
Johnny Sexton 10 Jack Carty
Luke McGrath (C)
9 Caolin Blade

Peter Dooley 1 Denis Buckley
James Tracy 2 Shane Delahunt
Michael Bent 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy
Ross Molony 4 Gavin Thornbury
Devin Toner 5 Quinn Roux (C)
Ryan Baird 6 Eoghan Masterson
Scott Penny 7 Conor Oliver
Dan Leavy 8 Sean Masterson

Replacements Sean Cronin 16 Jonny Murphy
Ed Byrne 17 Matthew Burke
Tom Clarkson 18 Conor Kenny
Josh Murphy 19 Ultan Dillane
Jack Conan 20 Cian Prendergast
Hugh O'Sullivan 21 Kieran Marmion
Liam Turner 22 Diarmuid Kilgallen
Will Connors 23 Ben O'Donnell

Not Considered
due to Injury
Vakh Abdaladze,
Conor O'Brien,
Adam Byrne,
Tadhg Furlong,
Max Deegan,
Jordan Larmour,
Tommy O'Brien,
James Lowe,
Caelan Doris,
Harry Byrne,
Garry Ringrose,
Rhys Ruddock

Officials Referee: Chris Busby (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2021-01-01