New-look Leinster make Galway trip

Tom Denton has never been to the Sportsground before but the second row’s teammates have apparently been filling him in on what to expect tonight at a venue which Leinster have, regardless of the event, rarely found to their liking.

York-born, Irish-qualified Denton will be one of seven among Leinster’s 23-man squad experiencing Galway’s surroundings for the first time this evening, five of them starters, as Joe Schmidt has once again made a host of changes to his XV.

Perhaps forced would be a more suitable word as, with a raft ofinternationals away for a two-day camp with Ireland earlier in the week, and a hefty three-week schedule to follow, it may be that the Leinster coach felt he had little choice.

There will be no Brian O’Driscoll playing at any stage this evening. No Johnny Sexton, Leo Cullen, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Kevin McLaughlin or Jamie Heaslip — all stood down after runs against Edinburgh last week.

With Sean O’Brien, Eoin Reddan, Isaac Boss and Luke Fitzgerald all injured, that leaves Leinster fielding a callow crew for this RaboDirect PRO 12 fixture although there is the reassuring sight of Rob Kearney at full-back for the first time this season.

Connacht have, as predicted, opted for considerable changes too but Eric Elwood’s side has been strengthened significantly by the return of several key men who were rested for the gutsy defeat in Glasgow last weekend.

In all, seven have been drafted in, most notable among them being the former Scotland out-half Dan Parks, who makes a belated bow in a Connacht jersey after his arrival from Cardiff over the summer was soured initially by an injury.

Elsewhere, 19-year old Robbie Henshaw switches to full-back in place of the injured Gavin Duffy, Tiernan O’Halloran and Fetu’u Vainikolo return to the wings while Eoin Griffin joins Dave McSharry in the centre.

The pack welcomes back Denis Buckley at loosehead prop, Michael Swift will return to make his 150th appearance in the second row while there are other positional changes besides in a team captained by former Leinster prop, Nathan White.

Leinster have now made six, 11, seven and 10 changes for their last four games. Such juggling has shown in their performances so far and a team rifled with youth will be pivoted at nine and 10 by the inexperienced duo of John Cooney and Ian Madigan.

“Their training won’t be compromised and they rested players last week,” said Leinster manager Guy Easterby. “They have more depth this season, but they did rest half of what would be termed their first-team regulars in a narrow loss in Glasgow.

“That one will be tough, then the Munster and the two Heineken games. The coaches don’t like looking at it like that but it is a concern because that rhythm is very difficult to come by when you are having to change the starting XV and 23 each week.”

CONNACHT: R Henshaw; T O’Halloran, E Griffin, D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; D Buckley, A Flavin, N White; M Swift, M McCarthy; E McKeown, J O’Connor, G Naoupu.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Macken, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; I Madigan, J Cooney; H van der Merwe, T Sexton, J Hagan; Q Roux, T Denton; B Marshall, S Jennings, L Auva’a.

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