Both Connacht and Leinster will be eager to get back to winning ways when they cross swords at the Sportsground on Sunday. After suffering a record league defeat in Cardiff last week and losing their last eight games against Leinster, Connacht will not be lacking in motivation.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, October 5
CONNACHT v LEINSTER, The Sportsground, 6pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland)
Team News: Head coach Michael Bradley has made nine changes to his side for Connacht’s derby encounter with Leinster at the Sportsground on Sunday.
Both Gavin Duffy and Keith Matthews return to the starting line-up in the centre having overcome their respective injuries since last week.
Ian Keatley also starts at out-half, with Andy Dunne out injured, and Liam Bibo returns on the right wing.
In the forwards there is a new-look front row, with Brett Wilkinson and Ronan Loughney teaming up with Sean Cronin at hooker.
And Michael McCarthy and Andrew Farley start once again in the second row.
Meanwhile, Sunday’s game will see Felipe Contepomi become the first overseas player to reach the 100 cap milestone for Leinster.
In his 99 appearances to date, where he also became the first Leinster player to pass the 1000-point mark, he has scored, in total, 1043 points (31 tries, 156 conversions, 190 penalties and 2 drop goals).
The Argentinian international will become the 14th Leinster player to reach the century mark.
In team news, Rob Kearney will start at full-back for Leinster and lines up in an exciting back-line which also includes Shane Horgan and Luke Fitzgerald, who partners Contepomi in the centre.
Simon Keogh will make his 11th Leinster appearance on the left wing, but his first since rejoining the province from Harlequins over the summer.
In the pack, Stan Wright and John Fogarty come into the front row alongside CJ Van Der Linde, with Rocky Elsom also retaining his place to partner Sean O’Brien and Stephen Keogh in the back row.
Interestingly, of Michael Cheika’s matchday 22, seven players have come through the Leinster Academy system in recent years.
CONNACHT: Fionn Carr; Liam Bibo, Gavin Duffy, Keith Matthews, Mike Roberts; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Michael McCarthy, Andrew Farley, John Muldoon (capt), Johnny O’Connor, Colm Rigney.
Replacements: Conor Muldoon, Robbie Morris, Andrew Browne, Michael Swift, Kieran Campbell, Troy Nathan, John Hearty.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Luke Fitzgerald, Felipe Contepomi, Simon Keogh; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Keane; Stan Wright, John Fogarty, CJ Van Der Linde, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Rocky Elsom, Sean O’Brien, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Cian Healy, Brian Blaney, Trevor Hogan, Cameron Jowitt, Chris Whitaker, Fergus McFadden, Gary Brown.
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, John Lacey (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Say What: Leo Cullen (Leinster) – “It’s going to be a very physical game. Connacht really raise their game when they play against the Irish provinces and we’ve had some pretty tough games against them over the years.
“The Sportsground is a very tough place to play. We were lucky to get a very tight win in atrocious conditions down there last year.
“So we’ll have to see what the conditions are like first, but coming off the loss (against Munster) we’re keen to get back to winning ways.
“Motivation won’t be an issue. There are a few changes in the team again this week and there are places up for grabs.
“Everyone wants to be playing now with so many big games coming up, and there’s going to be plenty of motivation to pick ourselves up and improve.”
Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “The bulk of the damage (against Cardiff) was done in the run-up to half-time as they built up a 46-0 interval lead.
“As management and players that is unacceptable. The system broke down and Cardiff ran right through us. It cannot be accepted in a professional sport.
“We bounced back from the Scarlets defeat to win against Glasgow and we need the same response now, against Leinster.
“We need a reaction. What happened in Cardiff is just not good enough, we are better than that but if you don’t get your tackles in then you will be made pay.
“We cannot allow what happened in the run-up to half-time to happen again. All our focus is on the Leinster game now and getting a win on Sunday.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Connacht: Ian Keatley 8; Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 41; Tries: Connacht: Fionn Carr, Brett Wilkinson 1 each; Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 4.
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, December 3, 2005 – Connacht 9 Leinster 21, The Sportsground
Sunday, March 5, 2006 – Leinster 16 Connacht 13, Donnybrook
Friday, September 29, 2006 – Connacht 16 Leinster 31, The Sportsground
Saturday, March 24, 2007 – Leinster 30 Connacht 21, Donnybrook
Friday, November 2, 2007 – Leinster 29 Connacht 9, The RDS
Friday, February 29, 2008 – Connacht 10 Leinster 16, The Sportsground
– Connacht’s only Magners League win so far this season was a 15-8 triumph at home to Glasgow Warriors on September 19
– Connacht have lost their last 13 encounters against their fellow Irish provinces since a 22-12 win over Ulster in Galway on New Year’s Eve 2005
– Reigning Magners League champions Leinster were ‘nilled’ for the first time in league history last Sunday against Munster
– Connacht have lost their last eight games against Leinster since a 35-24 victory at the Sportsground on November 5, 2004