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Magners Preview: Ulster v Leinster

Magners Preview: Ulster v Leinster

The oldest rivalry in Irish interprovincial rugby will be rekindled this evening as Ulster and Leinster go head to head in their quest for some crucial Magners League points at Ravenhill. With the added spice of Irish internationals returning from World Cup duty for both sides, this promises to be quite a tussle.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, October 26

ULSTER v LEINSTER, Ravenhill, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)

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Team News: A total of ten current international players, including Scottish debutant Rob Dewey, have been included in Ulster’s starting line-up for tonight’s Magners League derby tie with Leinster. The Ulster side is strengthened by the return of Ireland’s Andrew Trimble, Neil Best and Rory Best, the province’s captain, to the team, while Scottish recruit Dewey will be making his debut.

The remaining internationals, including Italian World Cup lock Carlo Del Fava, all started Ulster’s 32-8 loss to Llanelli last time out.

With Paddy Wallace and vice-captain Isaac Boss holding down the half-back slots, David Humphreys, who has recovered from an ankle injury, and Paul Marshall have been selected as cover for them on the bench.

Ulster will start with a new-look second row partnership with Del Fava being joined by Ireland ‘A’ forward Ryan Caldwell, who is available again after a three-match ban. Lock-cum-flanker Matt McCullough was not available for selection due to a minor foot injury picked up at training last week.

Meanwhile, Brian O’Driscoll and his Ireland back-line colleagues Girvan Dempsey and Gordon D’Arcy all return to the Leinster starting side for the Belfast battle.

O’Driscoll starts at outside centre and is partnered by D’Arcy in a back-line which also sees Dempsey return from World Cup duty and former Wallaby scrum half Chris Whitaker return from injury.

In the pack, the fit-again Leo Cullen partners Malcolm O’Kelly in the second row while Jamie Heaslip also returns from injury to start at number eight in a back row that includes Stephen Keogh and Shane Jennings.

Ollie Le Roux will make his debut for the province after arriving from South Africa last week and is named in a front row which includes Bernard Jackman and Stephen Knoop. Ireland flanker Keith Gleeson is named on a strong replacements bench which also includes the likes of Stan Wright and Ireland-capped winger Luke Fitzgerald.

Ulster: Bryn Cunningham; Tommy Bowe, Andrew Trimble, Rob Dewey, Mark McCrea; Paddy Wallace, Isaac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best (capt), Bryan Young, Carlo Del Fava, Ryan Caldwell, Neil Best, Kieron Dawson, Stephen Ferris.

Replacements: Nigel Brady, Declan Fitzpatrick, Justin Harrison, Roger Wilson, Paul Marshall, David Humphreys, Mark Bartholomeusz.

Leinster: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Rob Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Whitaker; Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Stephen Knoop, Leo Cullen, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Brian Blaney, Stan Wright, Devin Toner, Keith Gleeson, Cillian Willis, Christian Warner, Luke Fitzgerald.

Referee: George Clancy (Munster)

Coach Speak: Mark McCall (Ulster) – “We are not happy with where we are in the league, but we do know things can change very quickly. It is still early in the season. In the past, teams have put a string of results together and things can change very quickly. We are confident we can be that team.

“It has been brilliant to have a two week lead-in to this game with a number of the players having been away either at the World Cup or on the injury list. It was great to have those two weeks to bed them back in again and welcome some of the new signings.

“Training has gone well and we are pleased with all the players’ attitudes – not just those who have been here for the opening games. It’s all about getting the result and getting our league campaign back on track. If this happens it will give us momentum going into the Gloucester game (in the Heineken Cup).”

Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “Ravenhill is an excellent ground to play in. The crowd are passionate and these are the kind of games players want to play in and we enjoy that kind of an environment. By the look of things there will be a big travelling support coming from Leinster, which is good news.

“Our record in Belfast over the last few years has been pretty good, so we will look to take the positive experiences and try to use them to our advantage.

“Ulster’s form has been a bit like our own. Three out of their first four games have been away from home and everyone knows how difficult it is to win on the road in the Magners League. I wouldn’t read an enormous amount into how they’ve started this year’s campaign.”

Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Ulster: Niall O’Connor 23; Leinster: Jonathan Sexton 48; Tries: Ulster: Simon Danielli, Mark Bartholomeusz, Tom Court, Tommy Bowe 1 each; Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 3.


August 31, 2001: Leinster 31 Ulster 9, Donnybrook
January 2, 2004: Leinster 32 Ulster 30, Donnybrook
May 7, 2004: Ulster 28 Leinster 6, Ravenhill
September 11, 2004: Ulster 15 Leinster 26, Ravenhill
December 27, 2004: Leinster 9 Ulster 8, Donnybrook
October 1, 2005: Leinster 30 Ulster 23, Donnybrook
December 26, 2005: Ulster 19 Leinster 24, Ravenhill
December 2, 2006: Ulster 6 Leinster 6, Ravenhill
December 31, 2006: Leinster 20 Ulster 12, Lansdowne Road


– Ulster have lost three Magners League matches in a row, but have not lost four straight games in the league since October 2004. Ulster have won just one of their last four encounters with their fellow Irish provinces

– Leinster have lost back-to-back games in the Magners League but have not lost three in a row in the league since March 2004

– Since the league began back in 2001, Ulster have beaten Leinster just once – a 28-6 victory at Ravenhill on May 7, 2004


October 12 – Llanelli Scarlets 32 Ulster 8

October 6 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Ulster 11

September 28 – Edinburgh 24 Ulster 10

September 21 – Ulster 17 Ospreys 16


October 12 – Glasgow Warriors 21 Leinster 17

October 5 – Leinster 23 Llanelli Scarlets 52

September 28 – Cardiff Blues 19 Leinster 30

September 22 – Leinster 23 Edinburgh 8