Thursday, February 24, 2022

Preview : Leinster v Lions


Overall it has been such a week of good news for Leinster that I'm afraid to jinx it. But still, the news is worth repeating - for example, we have learned of new contracts for Cian Healy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Vakh Abdeladze and Michael Milne.

Then one of those "worst kept secrets" was confirmed as we learned officially that Jason Jenkins was going to join our second row depth chart - he didn't get much of a look in at Munster due to injury but for both his and our sakes here's hoping he returns to full fitness soon.

Also while it is of course a blow for Ireland to go without Iain Henderson, the chances are he will be back for the big match at Twickenham in a few weeks and his absence this weekend has given a much-deserved opportunity to Ross Molony for a call up to the test set up.

Most of the good news has had to do with players returning from injury. Obviously it wasn't all good with Will Connors ruled out for the season, terrible at any time but what an addition his chop tackles would have made to both club and country at the business end of HCC & 6N eh?

Anyway, on those coming back to action, we have recently seen Dave Kearney back in blue and just last weekend it was James Lowe back doing James Lowe things against those pesky birds. Now all of the Leinster faithful are delighted to see the name Dan Leavy back in the starting lineup, and what a xxx xxxx xxxx xxxxx xxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxx xx x x xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxx xxxxxx xxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xxx .

[NOTE - on reflection we chose to redact everything said about Dan's return to the lineup for fear of tempting the wrath of the rugby gods]

FORWARDS

Dan is in a much-changed Leinster pack that still looks to be well capable of getting the job done on Friday evening. Joe McCarthy gets another start alongside Devin Toner and James Tracy will have the task of finding them at the all important lineouts, with Josh Murphy and skipper Rhys Ruddock (the latest to hit the 200 cap milestone) all worthy dart-throwing targets.

BACKS

There are fewer changes in the backs but notably the RDS will see its third different 15 in as many weeks when Max O'Reilly returns to the role after a string of appearances last season. Most crucially we get to keep our young centre pairing of Harry Byrne and Jamie Osborne together and while hopefully the defensive side of thigs will stay at the right levels, we could do better with the ball and the continuity with Ross Byrne at 10 could help.

BENCH

With Harry on the pitch we can afford to go for a 6/2 split on the bench, and with both Max Deegan and Scott Penny poised for cameos, you wouldn't go far wrong in tipping at least one of them to get on the scoresheet. As always is the case with our replacements these days, the most important job we need from our 8 reserves is a continuation of the stingy D.

OPPOSITION

Things are not going well for the Lions these days. Pretty much all of their side that was reaching Super Rugby finals not too long ago are gone, and they have struggled to find good results in both the URC and Currie Cup back home. I watched their most recent outing against The Stormers and unfortunately it was every bit as ugly as the 10-32 scoreline suggests, they were lucky to get the 10.

It's a different-ish lineup they are sending on this one-off trip north, with arguably their most recognisable name Janie du Plessis left at home. But they do have players who can do some damage if allowed like winger Stean Pienaar though if Leinster's defending remains at the same standards they could find it a long slog.

The South Africa press are focusing on a couple of prospects in their lineup, namely Quan Horn at fullback and openside Ruan Venter both of whom have impressed both in junior and senior provincial competitions in the last year so they'll be worth looking out for.

PREDICTION

Would you believe this is our last scheduled match at the RDS of the season? Obviously I'd like to hope we'll have a home knockout fixture to look forward to but it is unusual to have the last league date while it's still February. But the fact that we have so many away matches left to play (including the South African swing against their two strongest teams in this comp) makes five points every bit as essential as the previous two weeks.

The bookies have us winning by 25 and I can't argue against that, in fact I have to lay down the gauntlet and push us to beat it. There's no reason to expect too many lapses in defence for the 80 minutes and if we can start to click a little better with the ball we could, and arguably should, push past that.

GET IN THE DISCUSSION

As always we'll be giving our two cents throughout the match on the twitter machine and at the full time whistle please feel free to head on over to the Facebook page and leave your thoughts, we publish a selection of the comments every week here on the site. If you're heading down to D4 for the match have a great night and I hope to see you there! JLP

Lions : 15. Quan Horn 14. Stean Pienaar 13. Wandisile Simelane 12. Burger Odendaal 11. Edwill van der Merwe 10. Jordan Hendrikse 9. Morne van den Berg 
1. Sti Sithole 2. Jaco Visagie 3. Carlu Sadie 4. PJ Steenkamp 5. Ruben Schoeman 6. Jaco Kriel (c) 7. Ruan Venter 8. Francke Horn
Replacements: 16. PJ Botha 17. Morgan Naude 18. Ruan Dreyer 19. Lunga Ncube 20. Sibusiso Sangweni 21. Nico Steyn 22.Manuel Rass 23.Tiaan Swanepoel.

United Rugby Championship 2021/22 - Round 10*
Friday, February 25, 2022
KO 7:35pm
RDS Arena

Referee: Craig Evans (WRU)
AR 1: Peter Martin (IRFU)
AR 2: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)
TMO: Colin Stanley (IRFU)

Live on: TG4, SuperSport, Premier Sports & URC TV.

* rescheduled


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