Friday, December 21, 2018

Preview : Leinster v Connacht

Of course it's always a shame that the provinces are reluctant to use full squads when they play each other over the Christmas period, but coming as they do right between important pairs of European battles, they really don't have much choice.

So we must make do with what we have but as often is the case with Leinster these days it still looks a quality XV we have set for the visit of our Connacht cousins.

At half back we have our second string pairing of Ross Byrne and JGP that could probably be regular starters for most Pro14 sides, and they'll be keen to prove it.

But most interesting is our centre pairing.  During the recent European window we had a couple of goes at filling the void at 12 left by the absence of Messrs Henshaw and Tomane, and while both Reid and O’Loughlin did well in winning cause, on Saturday we get another chance to watch Conor O’Brien show his credentials as the next natural inside centre on our conveyor belt, with Rory moving to the outside and Noel ready to contribute from the bench.

In the pack I'm pretty sure Scott Fardy is itching to get back out there after being left out of the Bath matches due to the ‘ANZAC’ rule. He teams up in the second row with former Connacht man Mick Kearney with Ross Molony on the bench; not a bad trio for us to have at lineout time.

Speaking of players who went from one province to the other, Connacht has a few themselves.   Tom Farrell has been doing well this season and will surely relish shwoing the RDS crowd what they're missing, and the same can be said for the likes of Gavin Thornbury and Cian Kelleher.

One of the lowlights from the reverse fixture at the Sportsground this season was of course the stamp by Dominic Robertson-McCoy on JVDF - the prop is on the bench again this weekend and while he has served his ban and thus it probably shouldn't be mentioned here. it's still fresh in the memory and his name does kind of stand out on a team sheet.  No doubt he'll be keen to have a more positive impact on proceedings this time around.

I'm assuming they'll come with a plan to tackle us into oblivion and if the scores are close in the last half an hour they can spring Bundee Aki from the bench.  If that's the case we'll need to be patient, and our back row of Ruddock, Leavy and Doris have to assert themselves.

The bookies have a home win by 14 points.  Sounds about right to me - we certainly can't take victory for granted but having said that even the second string lineups have impressed this season so the expectations should be high.  I can see us winning by double digits, but if the visitors keep their discipline on the defensive side of things we might have to knuckle down to clinch another bonus point.

Hope to see you at the RDS on the night, here's to a pre-season cracker and another Leinster win!  JLP

Connacht : (15-9) Tiernan O’Halloran, Cian Kelleher, Kyle Godwin, Tom Farrell, Darragh Leader, Jack Carty, Caolin Blade
(1-8) Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, Gavin Thornbury, Jarrad Butler (Capt), Colby Fainga’a, Paul Boyle.
Replacements (16-23): Shane Delahunt, Peter McCabe, Dominic Robertson McCoy, James Cannon, Eoghan Masterson, James Mitchell, David Horwitz, Bundee Aki.

Guinness Pro14 2018/19 Round 11
Saturday, December 22, 2018
KO : 7:45pm
RDS Arena

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)
AR1: John Lacey (IRFU)
AR2: Rob O’Sullivan (IRFU)
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

Live on eir sport 1, Premier Sports 1


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019