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Magners Preview: Ulster v Leinster

Magners Preview: Ulster v Leinster

The eagerly-awaited clash of Ulster Leinster at Ravenhill sees an Ulster side on the rise take on a Leinster side ready to lay the ghost of Castres past. The biggest news in an Irish context is the return of Gordon D’Arcy to the Leinster line-up.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, December 27

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

Team News: Ulster coach Matt Williams has announced his team to face Leinster at Ravenhill in Saturday’s Magners League derby.

The sell-out Christmas interprovincial tie will see Ulster’s Bryn Cunningham gain his 100th Magners League cap.

Fijian winger Timoci Nagusa also returns from injury after missing Ulster’s two recent Heineken cup clashes with the Scarlets.

Ryan Caldwell, Simon Danielli, Cillian Willis and Carlo Del Fava have all been ruled out of the match due to injury.

Looking forward to facing his former province, Ulster boss Matt Williams said: “We have prepared hard for this match, with so many players out with injuries we will really have to be on top of our game on Saturday.

“Leinster are a class act, and with the resent criticism they have had they will be out to prove their critics wrong. This game will be a battle right to the final whistle.

“We have prepared physically and mentally, so all we can do now is go out and play the best rugby we can and fight the blues all the all way.”

Meanwhile, Trevor Hogan and long term injury victim Gordon D’Arcy have forced their way into the Leinster team for Saturday’s league encounter.

D’Arcy, who is back fit after undergoing a number of operations on a forearm injury, starts on the right wing in a team that shows a number of changes to the one which beat the Newport Gwent Dragons last time out in the Magners League.

Felipe Contepomi, who will start after recovering from a hand infection, will line up alongside Luke Fitzgerald at centre.

Isa Nacewa, also back from a spell on the sideline, will partner stand-in skipper Chris Whitaker at half-back.

In the pack, John Fogarty comes into the front row alongside Cian Healy and Stan Wright, with Carlow youngster Sean O’Brien a starter in a back row that includes international duo Rocky Elsom and Jamie Heaslip.

Trevor Hogan, meanwhile, has been rewarded with a place in the second row after a series of impressive displays for the Leinster ‘A’ team.

Leinster coach Michael Cheika will finalise his replacements bench an hour before kick-off.

ULSTER: Bryn Cunningham; Timoci Nagusa, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Andrew Trimble; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Justin Fitzpatrick, Rory Best, BJ Botha, Ed O’Donoghue, Matt McCullough, Stephen Ferris, David Pollock, Robbie Diack.

Replacements (from): Nigel Brady, Tom Court, Thomas Anderson, Kieron Dawson, Paul Marshall, Paul Steinmetz, Clinton Schifcofske.

LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Felipe Contepomi, Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Chris Whitaker (capt); Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Trevor Hogan, Devin Toner, Rocky Elsom, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements (from): Brian Blaney, Ronan McCormack, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Cameron Jowitt, Chris Keane, Jonathan Sexton, Simon Keogh.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Leo Colgan (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Trevor Collins (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ulster to win: Evens; Draw: 18/1; Leinster to win: 4/5

Say What: Rory Best (Ulster) – “There is no doubt that it you want to be compared to the top teams in Europe then you have to be able to beat them. Leinster and Munster are always going to be right up there.

“We want to be up there as well, but we have to prove that.

“The only way to do that is to defeat Leinster tonight and where better than at a packed Ravenhill.

“In terms of how far we have come – and we have showed great improvement and development over the past few weeks – the Leinster game will be a good barometer for us.

“We are a side full of confidence at the moment and while we were disappointed that we did not win the away game against the Scarlets in Europe two weeks ago, to get a draw on the road, given our away record, was a good result all the same.

“Against Leinster we have to play as a team. The individual performances will be good, but only if we are all pulling together.”

Felipe Contepomi (Leinster) – “It’s a huge game for us in terms of the league and also because it’s an interpro. Everyone knows how important they are.

“We’ve lost the last two interpros (against Munster and Connacht) so it will be an even bigger game for us going up there to Ulster.

“The squad, with some of the guys coming back from the Irish international camp, is getting back together and we’ll try to put a good game-plan together to beat Ulster.

“Ravenhill is a very difficult place to go to. The crowd makes it very hostile, that is why Ulster are very strong at home.

“Apart from that, they are a very good team with a very good coach – they’re a young team playing some interesting rugby

“They are developing as a squad and as a team. I think it will be an important game for both of us.

“Obviously Ulster have always been strong in the pack. They have a very interesting 9-10-12 combination of playmakers who like to run the ball and then they have some good strikers out wide. They have a very balanced team now.”

Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Ulster: Ian Humphreys 30; Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 71; Tries: Ulster: Timoci Nagusa 3; Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 4 


Saturday, October 1, 2005 – Leinster 30 Ulster 23, Donnybrook
Monday, December 26, 2005 – Ulster 19 Leinster 24, Ravenhill
Saturday, December 2, 2006 – Ulster 6 Leinster 6, Ravenhill
Sunday, December 31, 2006 – Leinster 20 Ulster 12, Lansdowne Road
Friday, October 26, 2007 – Ulster 16 Leinster 16, Ravenhill
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 – Leinster 29 Ulster 0, The RDS


– Ulster are unbeaten in their last four matches in all competitions since their 42-21 reversal at Harlequins in the Heineken Cup

– The Ulstermen have won their last three games at Ravenhill in the Magners League. Ulster’s last defeat to a fellow Irish side at Ravenhill was when Munster were the visitors to Belfast on March 23, 2007

– Leinster ended a three-match losing run in the Magners League with their 29-13 victory over the Newport Gwent Dragons at the RDS on November 29

– Leinster’s only away victory in their last seven matches in all competitions was a 27-16 success at Edinburgh in the Heineken Cup on October 11

– Leinster have lost both games they have played against Irish opposition this season, while Ulster have not beaten Leinster since a 28-6 victory at Ravenhill in the league on May 7, 2004