Leinster opt to keep star men under wraps

With their European Rugby Champions Cup semi-final against Toulon just eight days away, Leinster coach Matt O’Connor has opted to wrap his star players in cotton wool for the province’s Guinness Pro12 encounter with Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade tomorrow.

Leinster opt to keep star men under wraps

There are 12 changes to the starting line-up from their win over Bath at the Aviva Stadium last Saturday, with Ben Te’o, Jimmy Gopperth and Mike McCarthy the only players to retain their places.

Jordi Murphy and Luke Fitzgerald will take their seat amongst the replacements but the remaining starters from the Bath game will not feature against the ninth-placed Welsh outfit.

Nevertheless, the presence of Gordon D’Arcy, Eoin Reddan and Shane Jennings means there is still an abundance of experience in the Blues’ side, which includes 10 full internationals.

One of these players is loosehead prop Jack McGrath, who agreed it was important to strike a fine balance between leadership and quality performance when you are travelling to a ground as daunting as Rodney Parade.

He also felt there would be a strong motivation within the squad to avenge their 16-14 defeat to the same opponents at the RDS mid- February, which ended a 21-game winning streak in the Ballsbridge venue.

“It is definitely a bit of both [leadership and performance]. If you’re selected, you have to put up your hand to be selected the following week. Leadership is a massive thing when you’re going away to Rodney Parade. It’s a pretty tough place to go,” McGrath remarked. “They beat us earlier on in the season, so there will be a lot of guys who were playing there that will be involved this weekend that are still hurting from that. It was a 21 [game] winning streak gone. It is a bit of a cauldron over there. They’re pretty tough to beat. They’ve six losing bonus points. They’re always pretty tight to the teams whenever they do lose. It’s going to be a good one.”

With Fergus McFadden still following the return to play protocols as a result of his collision with Kyle Eastmond last Saturday, his place on the wing is taken by Dave Kearney. McFadden was replaced in last Saturday’s outing by Zane Kirchner, who gets another chance to impress at full-back. Darragh Fanning (who hasn’t played since the previous encounter with the Dragons) completes a new-look back-three, with D’Arcy getting a much-needed run-out at inside centre. Reddan returns to partner Gopperth at half-back, while the youthful exuberance of McGrath, Marty Moore, Ben Marshall, Dominic Ryan and Jack Conan will be crucial in a Leinster pack that will be led from the front by hooker Richardt Strauss. With a four-point gap currently separating them from the play-off places, this is a must-win game for the current champions. The Dragons will only have a five-day turnaround to their European Challenge Cup semi-final with Edinburgh, but are boosted by the return of Welsh international Taulupe Faletau.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS:

J Tovey; T Prydie, T Morgan, J Dixon, H Amos; D Jones, J Evans; P Price, TR Thomas, B Harris; J Thomas, C Hill; N Crosswell, N Cudd, T Faletau.

Replacements:

R Buckley, L Garrett, D Way, M Screech, J Benjamin, L Jones, P Leach, GR Jones.

LEINSTER:

Z Kirchner; D Kearney, B Te’o, G D’Arcy, D Fanning; J Gopperth, E Reddan; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Moore; B Marshall, M McCarthy; D Ryan, S Jennings, J Conan.

Replacements:

A Dundon, M Bent, T Furlong, R Molony, J Murphy, L McGrath, N Reid, L Fitzgerald.

More in this section

CourtsRugbyMatt O’ConnorEuropean Rugby Champions CupGuinness PRO12Place: Rodney ParadePlace: Aviva StadiumPlace: RDSPlace: BallsbridgePerson: Matt OPerson: ConnorPerson: Ben Te’oPerson: Jimmy GopperthPerson: Mike McCarthyPerson: Jordi MurphyPerson: Luke FitzgeraldPerson: Gordon D’ArcyPerson: Eoin ReddanPerson: Shane JenningsPerson: Jack McGrathPerson: Rodney ParadePerson: McGrathPerson: Fergus McFaddenPerson: Kyle EastmondPerson: Dave KearneyPerson: McFaddenPerson: Zane KirchnerPerson: Darragh FanningPerson: D’ArcyPerson: ReddanPerson: GopperthPerson: Marty MoorePerson: Ben MarshallPerson: Dominic RyanPerson: Jack ConanPerson: Richardt StraussPerson: J ToveyPerson: T PrydiePerson: T MorganPerson: J DixonPerson: H AmosPerson: D JonesPerson: J EvansPerson: P PricePerson: TR ThomasPerson: B HarrisPerson: J ThomasPerson: C HillPerson: N CrosswellPerson: N CuddPerson: T FaletauPerson: R BuckleyPerson: L GarrettPerson: D WayPerson: M ScreechPerson: J BenjaminPerson: L JonesPerson: P LeachPerson: GR JonesPerson: Z KirchnerPerson: D KearneyPerson: B Te’oPerson: G D’ArcyPerson: D FanningPerson: J GopperthPerson: E ReddanPerson: J McGrathPerson: R StraussPerson: M MoorePerson: B MarshallPerson: M McCarthyPerson: D RyanPerson: S JenningsPerson: J ConanPerson: A DundonPerson: M BentPerson: T FurlongPerson: R MolonyPerson: J MurphyPerson: L McGrathPerson: N ReidPerson: L FitzgeraldEvent: European Rugby Champions CupEvent: Guinness PRO12Event: European Challenge CupOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: ToulonOrganisation: Newport Gwent DragonsOrganisation: BathOrganisation: Blues’Organisation: DragonsOrganisation: EdinburghOrganisation: Taulupe Faletau
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