Friday, January 22, 2016

Preview : Wasps v Leinster


“We have to back it up” is a phrase I heard often following the win over Bath last Saturday.

Really?  Do we?  So a defeat in Coventry will completely undo all the goodwill earned by Cullens Cubs last weekend? I think not.

Of course as Leinster fans we always want to see our team play well, and of course we always want them to win.  But the weird and wonderful rugby calendar means we must also be realistic about our goals.

We have but a six-day turnaround from this road trip to our next Pro12 encounter which involves travelling to what will be a well-rested Newport team that will be very keen to appease their demanding home support after getting hockeyed by Sale last night in the Challenge Cup.

For me, securing those four/five points is far more important than anything we plan to get out of the Ricoh Arena.  Now relax...I’m not suggesting we throw the game or treat the away fixture as the French clubs generally do...all I’m saying is that the Pro12 is our priority so if things not go our way in Coventry maybe we should reserve judgement for a few days, that’s all.

Right...to the selection itself.  In my Bath writeup I suggested the best way to honour that performance would be to name the exact same 23, or at least as near as possible.  Again that is assuming an ideal set of circumstances, and not only is the Newport game on the horizon but so is the small matter of the Six Nations so I suppose rotation was inevitable.

Clearly the most fascinating battle for Leinster fans has to be in the 12 position.  Noel Reid gets his first outing in a while, and interestingly he is paired with Luke Fitzgerald.  He has played a lot with Te’o there but this particular centre pairing looks mouth-watering from an offensive standpoint...I can see a lot of stepping and inside passes trying to unlock the Wasps defence.

And at inside centre for Wasps there is none other than Brendan Macken...great to see him get an opportunity in what is a very big fixture for his new club, and no doubt he’ll be keen to make us regret letting him go.

Of course Macken has another Leinster old boy inside him...Jimmy Gopperth found himself suspended the last time we met but this match up against Johnny Sexton (captaining Leinster for the first time) will be fascinating to analyse given where they spent last two seasons.

In the pack we have something of a head-scratcher...Rhys Ruddock has always been considered a back up second row if required but with Ross Molony having done so well last week he gets put to the bench and Ruddock starts at 5.  Is that because Joe wants a look at him there?  Or does Leo like me thinking of next Friday?

Bath kind of wanted a win when they came to Dublin last weekend.  But this time Wasps will REALLY want one.  They were unlucky to be denied in Toulon but the net result is that they can’t afford to settle for anything less than victory to make the quarters.

The bookies have the home side by four...I think it could be closer to five to seven.  Of course that means they will probably have to breach the stingy Leinster defence but with a strong pack they should be able to at least once, though something tells me they’ll need to do it sooner rather than later.  The longer we stay within touching distance I reckon the better chance we have.

So hopefully I’ll be as wrong about this as I was in my Ospreys preview a couple of weeks ago.  Meanwhile, best of luck to the other provinces, and I presume the Munster fans won’t mind if I say particularly Ulster & Connacht who are still in qualifying contention.

Then we have Leinster A, who will be looking to make it a whitewash in Pool 1 of the Biritish & Irish Cup tonight down at old HQ - head on over if you can, and if not, tune in to our liveblog from about 7:15pm.  JLP

#COYBIB

WASPS : 15. Charles Piutau 14. Josh Bassett 13. Elliot Daly 12. Brendan Macken 11. Frank Halai 10. Jimmy Gopperth 9. Joe Simpson
1. Matt Mullan 2. Edd Shervington 3. Lorenzo Cittadini 4. Joe Launchbury 5. Bradley Davies 6. James Haskell (c) 7. George Smith 8. Sam Jones
Replacements 16. Ashley Johnson 17. Tom Bristow 18. Jake Cooper-Woolley 19. James Gaskell 20. Nathan Hughes 21. Dan Robson 22. Ruaridh Jackson 23. Rob Miller

Rugby Champions Cup 2015/16 Pool 5 Round 6
Saturday, January 23, 2016
At the Ricoh Arena, 3:15pm.
Live on BT Sport
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (Fra)
Assistant Referees: Sebastien Minery (Fra), Thomas Dejean (Fra)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (Fra)

LEINSTER A v Rotherham at Donnybrook tonight at 7:30pm (liveblog on HarpinOnRugby.net from 7:15pm): 15. Billy Dardis 14. Cian Kelleher 13. Rory O'Loughlin 12. Harrison Brewer 11. Mick McGrath 10. Steve Crosbie 9. Nick McCarthy
1. Jeremy Loughman 2. Bryan Byrne 3. Oisin Heffernan 4. David O'Connor 5. James Ryan 6. Josh Murphy 7. Dan Leavy 8. Peadar Timmins CAPTAIN
Replacements 16. Aaron Dundon 17. Andrew Porter 18. Will Connors 19. Tony Ryan 20. Charlie Rock 21. Joey Carbery 22. Darragh Fanning

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