The Leinster squad to face the Cardiff Blues in Saturday’s opening Magners League clash of the season in the Arms Park (KO: 6.30pm, Setanta Ireland / S4C) has been named.
Fresh from a good pre-season which has seen the defending Magners League champions win three from three concluding in last weekend’s 48-19 victory over the Queensland Reds, all eight try-scorers that day are included in Saturday’s squad.
The team will be named on Friday lunchtime.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s clash, Leinster Coach Michael Cheika said:
PRE-SEASON: “It has been a good build up. Winning is an important habit to get into and I think that we were perhaps a little bit apprehensive because we didn’t have that same form this time last year.
“Obviously there’s a building process going on in the lead up to the season, but I don’t think that we were as secure as we needed to be (last weekend). That gives us something to work on because we know that Cardiff are capable of playing a hard-working, strong-running and offloading game.
“I felt we were able to get a few players out there and it was pleasing that we could maintain the same level. You don’t like to leak tries. What we’re doing this week is prioritising the areas that didn’t go right and move on from there.
“In the context of where we are, it was a good run-out for the guys.”
TEAM NEWS: “Isa (Nacewa) a quality player and he brings a lot of versatility to the team. We were able to play three different five-eights in the Queensland game, which is good, but it’s also tough because you’ve got to choose one!
“I think Fergus McFadden has done well in the (pre-season) trials this year. He has been secure in his role and he has worked on the things that he probably didn’t do as well in Italy. Sean O’Brien was very good as well while Luke (Fitzgerald) did some good things too, so we’ve got more young players that we will probably need to give a run to further down the track.
“We have a bit of a problem at tight-head with CJ (Van Der Linde) getting suspended, Stan Wright has an injury and Stephen Knoop being ill in the build up to last weekend.
“Ronan McCormack did a great job against Queensland, but we’ll just have to assess things and move on from there.”
ON CARDIFF: “They had a big win last weekend (43-13) against Northampton and it’s always tough down there. So it’s a matter of how we set ourselves up as a team, then the strategy that we take into the game.
“We need to be better in our defence than we were on Saturday. But it was good that players are starting to get into the routine of playing 60, 70 and 80 minutes. The bench showed that they came on with good qualities, which was also encouraging.
“Cardiff has a strong pack – even without Xavier Rush – with the likes of Martyn Williams, Gethin Jenkins and Paul Tito. They also have quality backs. Last Friday they were able to play two totally different teams in the first and second halves and both teams could easily have played at Magners League level. That’s something we’ll have to deal with so we’ve got to be smart and we’ve got to be hungry.”
BACKS: Chris Whitaker, Chris Keane, Paul O’Donohoe, Jonathan Sexton, Felipe Contepomi, Brian O’Driscoll, Gary Brown, Shane Horgan, Luke Fitzgerald, Isa Nacewa, Fergus McFadden, Rob Kearney, Simon Keogh, Eoin O’Malley, Girvan Dempsey
FORWARDS: Cian Healy, Stephen Knoop, Ronan McCormack, Bernard Jackman, Brian Blaney, John Fogarty, Cameron Jowitt, Malcolm O’Kelly, Devin Toner, Trevor Hogan, Stephen Keogh, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien, Kevin McLaughlin, Jamie Heaslip
REFEREE: Andy Macpherson (SRU), ASSISTANT REFEREES: David Bodilly (WRU), Jon Mason (WRU), TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)