LEINSTER (6th) v CONNACHT (10th), the RDS, 7.45pm (live TG4/Galway Bay FM)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Connacht in Saturday's RaboDirect PRO12 derby clash at the RDS has been named.
Shane Jennings leads a young Leinster team for the visit of Connacht. The Dublin-born flanker is one of six Ireland internationals in the hosts' starting line-up, joining Rhys Ruddock and number 8 Jordi Murphy in a newly-formed back row.
Amongst the international contingent is Fergus McFadden who starts on the right wing in a back-three that is completed by ex-Connacht flyer Fionn Carr and full-back Andrew Conway.
With a number of Ireland internationals being rested this week, there are three personnel changes in the back-line with Gordon D'Arcy and Eoin Reddan making way for Andrew Goodman and Isaac Boss respectively.
Ian Madigan, Boss' half-back partner, lies in third place in the league's top points scorer list with 74 points in 11 games so far this season.
Recent Ireland cap Michael Bent is the only survivor in the front row from last weekend's defeat to Ulster, as Heinke van der Merwe and Aaron Dundon are called up to start.
Ben Marshall takes over in the second row from benched captain Leo Cullen. It will be the 22-year-old's fifth appearance for the province - he is one of four current Academy players or recent Academy graduates in the pack.
Speaking ahead of the interpro tie, Andrew Conway said: "It has been a frustrating last few weeks for the squad. Our performance over in Clermont was pretty good, but over the last two games we haven't been clinical enough and we have been disappointed with aspects of our play.
"Against Ulster there was only a point between the two sides five minutes into the second half, but they were quick to seize an opportunity and that's what good sides do.
"(Dan) Parks has been a big signing for Connacht and with some of their ex-Leinster boys like Paulie (O'Donohoe) and Dave McSharry going so well, they're going to be a big threat.
"But the thing about Connacht is that they have built a strong squad of players. Up front they're physical and abrasive and if we allow them the chance to dominate us, we'll be punished.
"From my own perspective, it has been great to get a run of games under my belt this year. I'm picking up a lot of experience and that was a big target for me at the start of the year. But from a personal point of view I don't feel as though I've hit my stride yet."
There are now over 17,000 tickets sold for Saturday's game and tickets are still on sale online here, and from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
Meanwhile, Connacht have announced their team to play Leinster in the second installment of their back-to-back festive interprovincial derbies.
The westerners' head coach Eric Elwood has made four personnel changes to the starting line-up as they pursue a season's double over the European champions after defeating them 34-6 at the Sportsground in September.
The selected team sees winger Matt Healy earn his first senior start and cap for the province. The 23-year-old joined Connacht this season and has made a notable impression with Connacht Eagles in their inaugural British & Irish Cup campaign.
Danie Poolman moves to the right wing, making way for the fit-again Eoin Griffin who resumes his centre partnership with David McSharry.
In the pack, Denis Buckley returns to the loosehead spot alongside hooker Jason Harris-Wright and Nathan White, who continues as the province's stand-in captain.
Michael Swift, who returned from injury last weekend when coming off the bench against Munster, will partner George Naoupu in the second row.
Regular skipper Gavin Duffy, Willie Faloon, John Muldoon, Frank Murphy and Miah Nikora are all currently on the province's injury list, but centre Kyle Tonetti is now back in contention after receiving treatment for a troublesome hamstring injury in Germany.
LEINSTER: Andrew Conway; Fergus McFadden, Brendan Macken, Andrew Goodman, Fionn Carr; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Aaron Dundon, Michael Bent, Ben Marshall, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings (capt), Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Dominic Ryan, John Cooney, Noel Reid, Adam Byrne.
CONNACHT: Robbie Henshaw; Danie Poolman, Eoin Griffin, David McSharry, Matt Healy; Dan Parks, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Jason Harris-Wright, Nathan White (capt), Michael Swift, George Naoupu, Andrew Browne, Johnny O'Connor, Eoin McKeon.
Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Brett Wilkinson, Ronan Loughney, Michael Kearney, Eoghan Grace, Paul O'Donohoe, Matthew Jarvis, Tiernan O'Halloran.
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Mark Patton (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/18; Draw: 33/1; Connacht to win: 17/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) - "Saturday night presents the squad with an opportunity to put the Ulster performance behind us but this improving Connacht side have proved very difficult to beat this year.
"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.
"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.
"With a number of internationals set to be rested this weekend that presents some of the younger members of the panel with a further opportunity to gain experience that will hopefully add value to their development."
Eric Elwood (Connacht) - "We are under no illusions that we have another big challenge on Saturday. We had a good win against them earlier in the year and we are expecting a backlash up there," he told the Galway Advertiser.
"Leinster are after losing the last couple of games so it's another difficult outing - nothing new there.
"We have always said the RaboDirect PRO12 is our bread and butter and more importantly derby games are important to us, because we feel they are the games we are judged on severely particularly at home.
"The lesson (from the defeat to Munster) is you have to able to take your chances. In tight ball games, decisions go for you or against you, but when you get opportunities to score, you have to take them.
"Munster were clinical when they got the opportunity and we had another couple of opportunities, but we didn't take them."
Top Scorers - 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster - Points: Ian Madigan 74; Tries: Brendan Macken, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden 3 each; Connacht - Points: Dan Parks 52; Tries: George Naoupu, Tiernan O'Halloran, Danie Poolman 2 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 - Connacht 27 Leinster 13, the Sportsground
Saturday, October 23, 2010 - Connacht 6 Leinster 18, the Sportsground
Saturday, January 1, 2011 - Leinster 30 Connacht 8, the RDS
Saturday, October 8, 2011 - Leinster 30 Connacht 20, the RDS
Sunday, January 1, 2012 - Connacht 13 Leinster 15, the Sportsground
Friday, September 28, 2012 - Connacht 34 Leinster 6, the Sportsground
- Leinster have now slipped to three straight defeats in all competitions, something that has not happened since May 2010
- The Leinstermen are one of only two sides in the RaboDirect PRO12 with a 100% home winning record this season, the other being Ulster
- Connacht lost out narrowly (16-12) at home to Munster last Saturday, and have now won just one of their last six PRO12 games: 18-3 at home to Benetton Treviso on November 3
- Connacht's only away win against a fellow Irish province in the history of this competition was way back on September 13, 2002: 26-23 against Leinster at Donnybrook
- Connacht have already beaten Leinster in the RaboDirect PRO12 this season (34-6 in Galway on September 28), but have won just once in Dublin since 1985