Leinster cosy with ‘carpet’

Plastic pitches, 3G surfaces, artificial turf.

They aren’t everyone’s cup of tea regardless of what they are called, but few teams look as well equipped to cope with the carpet covering Cardiff Arms Park as Leinster who face the hosts there this afternoon in the Guinness PRO12.

The province has played on the fake stuff twice since its installation in the Welsh capital and they won both times while Leo Cullen’s men trained on the 4G version at Donnybrook earlier this week in preparation for the task ahead.

“The home teams generally perform pretty well (on the artificial pitches),” said the Leinster head coach. “It is a slight advantage. The familiarity with playing on it, a lot of our guys playing B&I (Cup) would have played on the Donnybrook pitch.

“A lot of our players are reasonably comfortable playing there, especially the younger guys more so. Guys who are coming through schools now are going to get pretty comfortable playing on it in the future. But, yeah, Cardiff, they adapted little slight tweaks to the way they play their game.

“They try to play with good tempo, even in their own half, because it can be a little bit easier to hold onto possession for long phases. It’s hard to win the ball back because the way the tackle unfolds slightly differently.”

Cullen has been aided by the return to his squad of seven players who have featured in Ireland’s matchday 23s so far in the Six Nations. In all, he has made eight changes to the side that brushed past Zebre eight days ago.

Jack Conan returns to the back row from a long-term injury absence while Mick Kearney will finally make his Leinster debut having been sidelined by injury since his summer arrival from Connacht. Cian Healy and Mike Ross will also look to bank crucial minutes as they return to full fitness.

Cardiff head coach Danny Wilson has also been given a helping hand by his union with seven players handed a leave of absence from Warren Gatland’s squad. Four of them start from the off as Cardiff seek to claim a seventh win from nine outings on their home patch.

“We enjoy the surface at home, but it’s also important we don’t concede as many tries as we have at home,” said Wilson. “It’s a fast surface which makes it hard to defend and, with Leinster here, it should be an entertaining and open fixture.”

CARDIFF BLUES:

R Patchell, A Cuthbert, C Allen, R Lee-Lo, B Scully, G Anscombe, L Williams; T Davies, K Dacey, S Ma’afu, J Hoeata, J Down, J Turnbull, E Jenkins, M Vosawai.

Replacements:

M Rees, B Thyer, T Filise, M Cook, J Navidi, T Williams, T James, D Fish.

LEINSTER:

Z Kirchner; F McFadden, G Ringrose, B Te’o, I Nacewa; I Madigan, E Reddan; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; M Kearney, H Triggs; R Ruddock, J Murphy, J Conan.

Replacements:

R Strauss, P Dooley, M Ross, T Denton, D Leavy, N McCarthy, N Reid, A Byrne.

Referee:

P Fitzgibbon (IRFU).

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