The TV cameras (TG4) will be in Donnybrook this evening (7.35) to see the Leinster Lions attempt to keep alive their hopes of a place in the Celtic League quarter-finals.
Even though Leinster have only won one of their five Celtic League games to date, the notion that they cannot qualify for the knock-out phases is not correct. In fact if they can win their last two games with a maximum points take, then they could very well sneak into the November quarter-finals.
The results that will concern them most -other than their own – will be those involving Pontypridd and Cardiff.
Cardiff are in the Brewery Field tomorrow and they’ll likely take enough points to bring them to 18, the maximum Leinster can attain. If Cardiff get the bonus then the focus switches to Pontypridd.
They play Connacht in the Sportsground and the way Steph Nel’s lads are performing the Welsh will do well to take a point, which means you could have a situation with Pontypridd on 18 points at home to Cardiff (19pts) and Leinster (18pts) away to Bridgend, in the final games on October 26th. Obviously, if Pontypridd draw or win in Galway and Cardiff gain the bonus in Bridgend, then Leinster are out.
But first of all the Lions have to roar loud in Donnybrook tonight. And they can. They play a Newport side who haven’t won a Celtic League game this season and who have lost the three games they played against Leinster last season. If Newport have a bogey-team then it’s this pride of lions. So Leinster with a full squad to choose from know, even before they start, that they have the beating of a Newport side that seem to have forgotten how to win games.
Leinster’s form to date can be discounted. As title holders they were always going to tempt the best out of opposing sides and perhaps with a little more luck – and a little better discipline – they might have mined a win or two more. Their worst performances are behind them and from now on we will see a little more of the ilan and fluency that took them to the inaugural title last year.
Leinster are at full-strength with just the bench to be finalised.
Newport make six changes from the side beaten 27-25 by Cardiff. Matt Pini and Andy Marionos are both out injured which means a switch of position for Matt Mostyn who moves to outside centre where he will be marking Brian O’Driscoll.
Leinster Lions: G. Dempsey, D. Hickie, B. O’Driscoll, S. Horgan, G. D’Arcy, C. Warner, B. O’Meara, R. Corrigan (captain), S. Byrne, P. Wallace, L. Cullen, M. O’Kelly, E. Miller, V. Costello, K. Gleeson.
Replacements: E. Byrne, P. Smyth, A. Kearney, D. Dillon, B. O’Riordan, D. Quinlan/A. Magro, M. Leek/K. Lewis.
Newport. S Howarth; A Cadwallader, M Mostyn, S Williams, L Nabaro; J Strange, O Tonu’u; C Jones, J Richards, A Garvey; S Raiwalui capt, M Voyle; J Powell, A Powell, J Forster.
Referee – Iain Ramage (SRU).