Familiar stars will be missing as Leinster head into another high risk RaboDirect Pro12 encounter against Connacht at the RDS this evening.
With egg on the face following a dramatic first round loss (6-34) at the Sportsground earlier this year, Leinster have to make do with a diluted team-offering due to injury and unavailability, although nominated skipper Shane Jennings is one of six Ireland internationals in the starting line-up.
Amongst that group is Fergus McFadden, who starts on the right wing in a back three alongside former Connacht winger Fionn Carr and full-back Andrew Conway; the others with Jennings and McFadden having senior experience for Ireland are Isaac Boss, Devan Toner, Rhys Ruddock and newcomer Michael Bent.
Ian Madigan will return to out-half after recent appearances for Leinster in the No 15 shirt but it shouldn’t make any difference to his ability to add to an impressive scoring tally — 74 points so far in the Rabo tournament.
In the pack, Heinke van der Merwe is named in the front row alongside Aaron Dundon and Bent, with Devin Toner partnering Ben Marshall at second row. Marshall will make his fifth appearance for the province and is one of four current academy players or recent academy graduates in the pack.
Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has made four personnel changes to his side, with Matt Healy set to earn his first cap on the left wing after making a big impression with the Connacht Eagles in the British & Irish Cup.
Danie Poolman moves to the right wing and makes way for Eoin Griffin who resumes his centre partnership with Dave McSharry.
In the pack, Denis Buckley is named in the front row alongside Jason Harris-Wright and captain Nathan White. Michael Swift, who returned from injury last week and came off the bench against Munster, will partner George Naoupu in the second row.
Full-back Conway is under no illusions of the difficulties facing Leinster — despite the inevitability of having the bulk of 17,000 fans giving his side encouragement. He said: “Connacht have built on a good win against us earlier in the year and have pushed on with big results; we know that we have to really up our performance levels because they’re a side who can hurt you.”
Connacht, he figures, could bounce back after losing to Munster last weekend. “Looking at their defeat to Munster they probably felt that it was a game which they could have, maybe should have, won. So they’ll be looking to come to the RDS and aim to do a job on us,” he said. “From our perspective it has been a frustrating last few weeks. Our performance over in Stade Marcel Michelin [in the Heineken Cup] was pretty good, but over the last two games we haven’t been clinical enough and we have been disappointed with aspects of our play.
“Against Ulster there was only a point between the two sides five minutes into the second half, but they [Ulster] were quick to seize an opportunity and that’s what good sides do.”
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