Friday, September 28, 2018

Preview : Connacht v Leinster


Wowza!

You'd think after harpin' on the same team for over ten years I'd get used to what kind of team they were going to select, even in the topsy turvy world of Irish provincial team selection.

After fielding two very strong lineups at home, with Munster at the Aviva plus Wasps and Toulouse to come, all of the signs from history pointed to a host of stars being rested while a host of prospects get tested on a tricky visit to the Sportsground.

But as it turns out, the team is so strong we can afford to play Dave Kearney in the A side at Donnybrook tonight!

First there's Johnny Sexton.  Starting three weeks in a row in September???  What the what now?  That surely has to suggest a change in the player management rules?  Whatever the reason, I'm certainly not complaining and his presence on the team sheet makes a major difference to my outlook on this fixture, with all due respect of course to the other 10s at Leinster's disposal.

Outside him will be Joe Tomane, and I have to assume he has been itching to start after three weeks in a row wearing 23.  His debut in Cardiff was far from ideal, particularly on the defensive front, though to be fair other teams have gone there since and also struggled so he is definitely worth another chance.

Next is a back three of Lowe, Larmour and Kearney, which could be close to having the perfect balance of skills you need for those three jerseys.  Two wingers always looking to make something happen while behind them, a full back who is solid under the high ball and more than able to run back and get his side on the front foot himself.

If we can get even close to the type of rugby that produced tries like Lowe's against Edinburgh last Saturday, we're going to be hard to stop.

When it comes to the pack, we're incredibly close to our ideal starting 8, so expectations will be high there as well.  But while the home side have their own back rower named Sean O'Brien taking part, all eyes will be on our version who returns from another long term injury to take a place on the bench.  Fingers crossed he gets through a decent 15-20m shift and is ready for a full 80 soon.

As you can see by my positivity so far, I'm very much hoping that the match will go a tad differently to our last meeting with the Westerners just five months ago.  Yet while our matchday squad is a whole lot stronger than it was that day, Connacht's is more or less the same and certainly won't be too diminished by the lack of John Muldoon seeing as Robin Copeland is now based out that way.

They had a good win over the Scarlets last weekend and won't fear us no matter what side we put out.  I was particularly impressed by Bundee Aki's attitude in that match and totally expect more of the same from him here.

Basically I'm thinking we can win this one but to do so we'll need to take every chance we create...the longer we go without any kind of lead the harder it will be to get one, especially if we find ourselves on the wrong side of ref John Lacey...a repeat of the kind of discipline which led to just three penalties shipped at the RDS last time out could prove key.

So I'm expecting a couple of cracking interpros Saturday evening, with Leinster coming out on top by about 3-5 points, a shade closer than the bookies who have us by 6.  Now way is a win guaranteed but one thing is for sure...it will be an excellent test for us as the beginning of our "Drive For Five" draws nearer.  JLP

PS - Don't forget the Leinster A match tonight down at Energia Park/Donnybrook Stadium...make it down if you can but if not, I'm planning to do a liveblog he on the site starting around 7:15pm.

#COYBIB

Connacht : 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Cian Kelleher, 13 Tom Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion
1 Denis Buckley, 2 Dave Heffernan (C), 3 Finlay Bealham, 4 Ultan Dillane, 5 Quinn Roux, 6 Sean O’Brien, 7 Colby Fainga’a,8 Robin Copeland.
Replacements : 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Peter McCabe, 18 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 19 James Cannon, 20 Paul Boyle, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Craig Ronaldson, 23 Niyi Adeolokun.

Guinness Pro14 2018/19 Round 5
Saturday, September 29, 2018
KO 5:15pm
The Sportsground, Galway

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU)
AR1: Andrew Brace (IRFU)
AR2: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Live on TG4, Premier Sports 1, eir sport 1

Leinster ‘A’ matchday squad v Ospreys ‘A’ : 15. Jack Kelly > CAPTAIN 14. Adam Byrne 13. Jimmy O'Brien 12. Conor O'Brien 11. Dave Kearney 10. Ciaran Frawley 9. Hugh O'Sullivan
1. Peter Dooley 2. Bryan Byrne 3. Tom Clarkson 4. Jack Dunne 5. Ian Nagle 6. Josh Murphy 7. Scott Penny 8. Ronan Foley
16. Dan Sheehan 17. Michael Milne 18. Vakh Abdaladze 19. Charlie Ryan 20. Ronan Watters 21. Patrick Patterson 22. David Hawkshaw 23. Michael Silvester

Celtic Cup 2018 - Round 4
Friday September 28, 2018
Energia Park, Donnybrook
Kickoff 7:30pm
Liveblog on www.harpinonrugby.net from 7:15pm

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