Leinster will be protecting a proud record against Connacht at the RDS on Friday night – they have won their last six matches against the westerners. A 26-23 success at Donnybrook in 2002 has been Connacht’s only win in Dublin since 1985.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, November 2
LEINSTER v CONNACHT, The RDS, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Leinster coach Michael Cheika has made four changes to his side for tomorrow night’s Magners League derby clash with Connacht.
Flanker Keith Gleeson returns to the Leinster side for the Interprovincial tussle and is one of four changes to the team that started last weekend’s 16-16 draw against Ulster at Ravenhill.
Luke Fitzgerald starts on the left wing in a back-line that includes Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan, Girvan Dempsey and Brian O’Driscoll, who captains the side.
Christian Warner is given a chance to impress at out-half – the Australian partners his countryman Chris Whitaker at half-back, with Jonathan Sexton on the bench and Felipe Contepomi unavailable.
In the pack, Stan Wright comes into the front row after impressing as a replacement last week in place of Stephen Knoop, who picked up a knock.
Leo Cullen continues his second row partnership with Malcolm O’Kelly, while in the back row Stephen Keogh lines up alongside Jamie Heaslip and Gleeson.
Meanwhile, Connacht coach Michael Bradley is hoping lock and captain Andrew Farley and influential flanker Ray Ofisa can both pass fitness tests and take their places in the westerners’ line-up for tomorrow’s game.
If both Farley and Ofisa are ruled fit to play, Bradley’s starting selection will show just one change to the side that drew 14-14 with Edinburgh in Galway last week. Farley, who is nursing a hamstring injury, would come in for David Gannon in the second row.
Ofisa, who started the game against Edinburgh, has a calf injury to overcome. Should Ofisa fail to start tomorrow night, Michael McCarthy will be bumped up from the replacements bench to take his place at blindside flanker.
Connacht’s matchday squad also includes fit-again prop Ronan Loughney, who has been out of action since injuring his hamstring against Glasgow four weeks ago.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Christian Warner, Chris Whitaker; Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Juan Francisco Gomez, Cameron Jowitt, Shane Jennings, Cillian Willis, Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Ofisa Treviranus, Mel Deane, Aidan Wynne, Keith Matthews; Tim Donnelly, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, John Fogarty, Robbie Morris, Michael Swift, David Gannon/Andrew Farley (capt), Ray Ofisa/Michael McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon.
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Ronan Loughney, David Gannon/Andrew Farley/Andrew Browne, Ray Ofisa/Michael McCarthy/Colm Rigney, Conor O’Loughlin, Peter Durcan, Darren Yapp.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Munster)
Coach Speak: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “One thing I’ve seen is that Connacht have become serious competitors week in, week out. They’re a very well coached team. They play together as a team. I don’t think the old ‘chip on the shoulder’ is there much anymore because they play at a high level against the same opponents as us.
“They’ve bought smartly with Johnny O’Connor and Mel Deane and Tim Donnelly, who I know from Australia, is good at orchestrating the game well. He has also played Super 14.
“They’ve changed Conor McPhillips into a half-back which is smart and their second rows are very effective. Everyone knows that they’re a very competitive outfit.”
Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “Leinster have quality in their side but there is no reason to fear them going into this match and we look forward to the challenge of playing them at the RDS.
“We’re going up there full of confidence based on the performances we’ve had so far in the season. We think that Leinster are also playing very well. They’ve improved their squad this year, as have we, and there are big European matches around the corner so there is a lot to play for, for both sides.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Jonathan Sexton 59; Connacht: Tim Donnelly 58; Tries: Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 3; Connacht: Robbie Morris 2.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
September 13, 2002: Leinster 23 Connacht 26, Donnybrook
October 17, 2003: Leinster 21 Connacht 6, Donnybrook
March 13, 2004: Connacht 35 Leinster 24, The Sportsground
November 5, 2004: Leinster 18 Connacht 9, Donnybrook
March 20, 2005: Connacht 21 Leinster 26, The Sportsground
December 3, 2005: Connacht 9 Leinster 21, The Sportsground
March 5, 2006: Leinster 16 Connacht 13, Donnybrook
September 29, 2006: Connacht 16 Leinster 31, The Sportsground
March 24, 2007: Leinster 30 Connacht 21, Donnybrook
– Leinster have not won in the Magners League since their 30-19 victory in Cardiff on September 28, Leinster have lost just one of their last seven encounters with their fellow Irish provinces – 25-11 at Munster on December 27, 2006
– Connacht’s away form continues to be a worry. The westerners have not won on the road in the league since a trip to the Borders on September 1, 2006
– Leinster have won their last six clashes with Connacht since the westerners won 35-24 in Galway on March 13, 2004. Connacht’s only win in Dublin since 1985 was a 26-23 success at Donnybrook in the league on September 13, 2002
LEINSTER MATCH REPORTS:
October 26: Ulster 16 Leinster 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
CONNACHT MATCH REPORTS:
October 26: Connacht 14 Edinburgh 14
October 12: Cardiff Blues 30 Connacht 16
October 5: Glasgow Warriors 16 Connacht 15
September 28: Llanelli Scarlets 34 Connacht 11
September 21: Connacht 22 Newport Gwent Dragons 7