Saturday, 29 December 2012

Leinster v Connacht - Preview

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Leinster coach Joe Schmidt makes nine changes in the team to face Connacht in the Pro12 derby at the RDS on Saturday.

Andrew Goodman, Fionn Carr and Issac Boss are drafted into the backs while there are six changes in the forwards.

Heinke van der Merwe, Aaron Dundon, Ben Marshall, Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy and captain Shane Jennings also get a start.

Connacht make four changes with Eoin Griffin, Matt Healy, Denis Buckley and Michael Swift coming in.

Connacht are chasing a season double over the European champions after defeating them 34-6 at the Sportsground in September.

Winger Healy earn his first start and cap for the province while Danie Poolman moves to the right wing and makes way for Eoin Griffin, who resumes his centre partnership with Dave McSharry.

In the pack, Buckley is named in the front row alongside Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White, who captains the side.

Swift, who returned from injury last week and came off the bench against Munster, will partner George Naoupu in the second row.

Jennings leads a young Leinster team and the back-row forward is one of six Ireland internationals in the starting line-up.

Amongst them is Fergus McFadden, who starts on the right wing in a back three alongside Carr and full-back Andrew Conway.

Ian Madigan lies in third place in the league's accumulators list with 74 points in 11 Pro12 games so far, and he will pair up with Boss at half-back.

Van der Merwe is named in the front row alongside Dundon and Ireland prop Michael Bent, with Devin Toner partnering Marshall in the 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.

Leinster boss Joe Schmidt is expecting a tough challenge from a Connacht side that probably should have accounted for Munster in Galway last Saturday night.

"They have recruited well, including a number of players we know well, and will look to dominate and to be as combative as they were in their win over us earlier in the season," he said.

"We know from personal experience how good they can be and they'll be disappointed that they didn't make the most of their opportunities against Munster last Saturday, especially when George Naupou crossed the line late in the game.

"They'll be frustrated by that and motivated by it as well so there is no doubt about how committed and passionate they will be arriving into the RDS."

The recent war of words between Schmidt and Connacht chief executive Tom Sears following Mike McCarthy's decision to move from the Galway-based club to Leinster may add a little spice to Saturday's encounter.

Leinster: A Conway; F McFadden, B Macken, A Goodman, F Carr, I Madigan, I Boss, H van der Merwe, A Dundon, M Bent, B Marshall, D Toner, R Ruddock, S Jennings (capt), J Murphy.

Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, M Ross, L Cullen, D Ryan, J Cooney, N Reid, A Byrne.

Connacht: R Henshaw, D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy, D Parks, K Marmion, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White (capt), M Swift, G Naoupu, A Browne, J O'Connor, E McKeon.

Replacements: E Reynecke, B Wilkinson, R Loughney, M Kearney, E Grace, P O'Donohoe, M Jarvis, T O'Halloran.

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