It is another busy weekend in the Magners League but all the focus on Saturday will be on the RDS where Leinster could lift the title with a victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, May 3
LEINSTER v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS, The RDS, 6pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/S4C)
Team News: Keith Gleeson will start his final home game for Leinster having been named in the province’s starting line-up for Saturday’s Magners League clash with the Newport Gwent Dragons.
Ireland duo Trevor Hogan and Keith Gleeson will return to the Leinster side for the penultimate game of the season and Gleeson’s inclusion will mark his final home appearance for the province.
There is a familiar look to the remainder of the forwards, with Ollie Le Roux starting alongside Leinster’s Bank of Ireland Player of the Year Bernard Jackman and Stan Wright in the front row.
Shane Horgan has recovered from illness to take his place in a strong back-line which includes his fellow Ireland internationals Girvan Dempsey, Rob Kearney and captain Brian O’Driscoll.
Chris Whitaker partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back with Felipe Contepomi linking up with O’Driscoll in midfield.
Meanwhile, second row-cum-flanker Andy Hall is set to make his 100th appearance in the league in Saturday’s game, off the Dragons’ bench.
Hall joined the Dragons in 2005, with 55 Celtic League appearances for Glasgow Warriors and international honours with Scotland.
He has since made 64 appearances for the Welsh region, 44 of those in the league.
Dragons boss Paul Turner has made eight changes to the side he started with in last Friday’s defeat to the Ospreys.
In the back-line, Gareth Maule and Richard Fussell come in for Rhodri Gomer Davies and Richard Mustoe at inside centre and on the left wing respectively, with play-maker Ceri Sweeney returning at number 10 in place of teenager Jason Tovey.
There are five alterations in the forwards – Steve Jones gets the nod over Ben Daly at hooker and Adam Jones and Peter Sidoli come in for Andrew Hall and Luke Charteris in the second row.
Jamie Ringer and Michael Owen are also introduced in the back row, with Colin Charvis and Joe Bearman making way.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Felipe Contepomi, Rob Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Whitaker; Ollie Le Roux, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Trevor Hogan, Malcolm O’Kelly, Shane Jennings, Keith Gleeson, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Brian Blaney, Stephen Knoop, Cameron Jowitt, Stephen Keogh, Chris Keane, Christian Warner, Luke Fitzgerald.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Kevin Morgan; Gareth Wyatt, Paul Emerick, Gareth Maule, Richard Fussell; Ceri Sweeney, Andy Williams; Adam Black, Steve Jones, Rhys Thomas, Adam Jones, Peter Sidoli, Jamie Ringer, Richard Parks, Michael Owen.
Replacements (from): Ben Daly, Lee Harrison, Andy Hall, Phillip Dollman, James Harris, Lewis Evans, Richard Mustoe, Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans.
Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Say What: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “I went down to see the Dragons against the Ospreys last weekend and we understand the importance of this week’s game. We’re concentrating on our opponents and we will be doing our best to get the right result.
“We have been voted the best supported team in the Magners League again this year and we would love to beat the Dragons for them (the supporters) on Saturday. But first things first, our focus is on the game and not the occasion.
“I feel that we’re in far better shape this year. We have definitely managed the players differently, in that we might have taken them out of training at particular times.
“Our mental and physical conditioning and player preparation – things like that have improved and though we’ve had some disappointment in recent years, if I didn’t learn from those experiences then they would have been wasted.
“We know that our consistent performances all year have gotten us this far.”
Paul Turner (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “When I saw the fixture list at the start of the season it didn’t make a lot of sense to have the same team on the bounce at the end.
“Given the strength of their squad, you always knew they would be there or thereabouts at the top of the league. So we know it’s a difficult assignment for us.
“But we’ve trained well this week and talked about it a lot. The players know they have to do certain things right technically, but the first 20 minutes will be about attitude.
“Leinster are the form team with form players. We are going to have to be at our best.”
Top Scorers: 2007/08 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Felipe Contepomi: 115; Newport Gwent Dragons: Ceri Sweeney 58; Tries: Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 6; Newport Gwent Dragons: Gareth Wyatt 3.
PREVIOUS LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, February 6, 2004 – Newport Gwent Dragons 35 Leinster 14, Rodney Parade
Friday, May 14, 2004 – Leinster 56 Newport Gwent Dragons 39, Lansdowne Road
Friday, October 1, 2004 – Newport Gwent Dragons 34 Leinster 13, Rodney Parade
Sunday, January 30, 2005 – Leinster 55 Newport Gwent Dragons 3, Lansdowne Road
Friday, September 16, 2005 – Leinster 33 Newport Gwent Dragons 14, Donnybrook
Saturday, February 18, 2006 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Leinster 18, Rodney Parade
Saturday, November 4, 2006 – Leinster 35 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, Donnybrook
Friday, April 13, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 22 Leinster 23, Rodney Parade
– Leinster’s 11-game unbeaten run in the Magners League came to a halt at Edinburgh in the last round but a victory on Saturday will give them the league title for the second time
– Leinster have won their last nine matches at the RDS in all competitions
– The Newport Gwent Dragons are winless in their last seven encounters in all competitions since beating Glasgow 18-16 at Firhill on January 4
– The Dragons have lost their last 15 matches against Irish opponents since they gained a 28-21 victory over Ulster at Ravenhill on October 8, 2004
– Leinster have won four of their last five matches against the Dragons