Match Preview: Gopperth at 10 as O’Connor springs surprises

Jimmy Gopperth

With Jimmy Gopperth at 10 instead of Ian Madigan, Mike Ross demoted from the 23 and Jack Conan preferred to Dominic Ryan, Matt O’Connor has provided no scarcity of pre-match debating points for Leinster fans today.

If the preference for Gopperth continues the game of musical chairs at out-half, then the promotion of Marty Moore to starting tighthead and Tadhg Furlong to the bench for a game of this import signals the beginning of the end for Ross.

Neither selection is likely to meet with Joe Schmidt’s favour just three weeks before Ireland’s 6 Nations opener in Italy, but needs must for the province and O’Connor has named a team more than capable of claiming all five points.

The selection of Gordon D’Arcy on the bench is another sign of changing times and the presence of Madigan and Luke Fitzgerald in the midfield offers greater attacking intent for a side still badly in need of a cutting edge.

With the likes of D’Arcy, Ryan, Richardt Strauss and Kane Douglas on the bench, Leinster’s reserves carry more of a threat than for some time, even if it would be alarming should they be required for any heavy lifting. Castres haven’t left all their jewels under lock and key at home, as might have been expected. Yes, France out-half Remi Tales is only on the bench, but the mercurial Rory Kockott lines up at scrum-half for a game that means little or nothing to the visitors.

Ultimately, it will be their mentality rather than their personnel that counts for more this evening and Leinster have spoken more than once this week of the need to inflict the sort of early damage that kills any possible flicker of interest from the visitors.

With Gopperth back on song after his performance in Cardiff last week, and a strong pack where even third-choice loosehead prop Michael Bent looks solid enough to survive, Leinster should be banking their fourth try and the win long before the final whistle.

Anything less and the conversations around Ballsbridge afterwards will probably migrate away from the players to the coaches ahead of the round six visit to Wasps’ new home in Coventry seven days later.


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