Leinster have been installed as heavy favourites to avenge their October defeat by Connacht when the westerners visit the RDS on Friday night. After their historic win over Munster last weekend, Connacht are gunning for their first ever ‘season’s double’ over a fellow Irish province.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, January 2
LEINSTER v CONNACHT, The RDS, 7.30pm (live Setanta Sports 1 and 2)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Connacht in Friday night’s Magners League derby meeting at the RDS has been named.
Simon Keogh, a late try scorer against Ulster last week, will start against Connacht on the left wing with Rob Kearney moving to full-back.
Felipe Contepomi, who kicked 11 points in the win over Ulster, will continue his centre partnership with Luke Fitzgerald.
Meanwhile, in the pack, Shane Jennings has recovered from injury to take his place at openside flanker, while Stephen Keogh and Cameron Jowitt also come into the starting line-up, with Devin Toner and Jamie Heaslip making way.
Leinster’s final list of replacements, which could include Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll and Ireland’s most-capped player Malcolm O’Kelly, will be confirmed closer to kick-off.
Meanwhile, Connacht have made four changes in personnel to the side which Munster for their New Year derby clash with Leinster.
Fionn Carr comes back into the Connacht team on the right wing while, up front, John Lyne starts at loosehead prop alongside Adrian Flavin at hooker.
In the second row, Michael Swift will start alongside Andrew Farley, who made his 100th Magners League start last time out.
In a number of positional switches, Troy Nathan reverts from wing to full-back, while Mike McCarthy moves from the second row to the back row and team captain John Muldoon switches to the openside berth.
Gavin Duffy, who featured at full-back against Munster, has been ruled out with a knee injury, joining Tim Donnelly (knee), Johnny O’Connor (calf) and Mike Roberts (calf) on the province’s injury list.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald, Felipe Contepomi, Simon Keogh; Isa Nacewa, Chris Whitaker (capt); Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Trevor Hogan, Cameron Jowitt, Rocky Elsom, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements (from): Brian Blaney, Ronan McCormack, Malcolm O’Kelly, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip, Chris Keane, Jonathan Sexton, Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll.
CONNACHT: Troy Nathan; Fionn Carr, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Liam Bibo; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; John Lyne, Adrian Flavin, Robbie Morris, Michael Swift, Andrew Farley, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon (capt), Colm Rigney.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Ronan Loughney, Andrew Browne, David Gannon, Kieran Campbell, Andy Dunne, Mel Deane.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Colin Stanley, David Wilkinson (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/33; Draw: 40/1; Connacht to win: 9/1
Say What: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “Connacht are going to be full of confidence and they always play very well against us.
“I’m not surprised at the Munster result because it’s a difficult place to go to and we’re feeling a fair bit of pressure from the last defeat.
“The challenge for us will be to practice the plan this week to try and nullify their threat. They’re very physical and from my own personal experience these are always tough, tight games.
“Though we weren’t as fluent attacking wise against Ulster, I was very pleased with the result. It was Isa (Nacewa’s) first game in the hot seat at 10 and it was also good to have Gordon (D’Arcy) back for the first time this year.
“We weren’t expecting him to play the whole game, but his work-rate, energy and physicality was there.
“He was very confident going into the game and it was good to see him come straight into it.
“On the injury front, we’ll have to wait and see on the guys who are coming back. Hopefully they’ll all be available and that’s why we’ve included them in the panel.
“Girvan Dempsey is a lot better than expected and his ankle knock means that he will miss this week’s match but could be back next week.
“Stan (Wright’s) injury looked quite nasty initially but he had a scan on his ankle and it’s also not as bad as first feared. Hopefully Bernard Jackman will be back for the first Heineken Cup game of 2009.”
Michael Bradley (Connacht) – “This will be a big test for us as Leinster will be out for revenge after our victory over them at the Sportsground earlier this season.
“Sunday’s win over Munster was great. It was long overdue but we have moved on from it the same way that we do not dwell too long on a defeat. There is no point in resting on one victory.”
John Muldoon (Connacht) – “We have to make the Munster win a stepping stone. There is no point sitting back going up to Leinster and letting them throw a load of points on us.
“We need to build on this and find the consistency away from home to match our home form.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 82; Connacht: Ian Keatley 46; Tries: Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 4; Connacht: Fionn Carr 3
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Sunday, October 5, 2008 – Connacht 19 Leinster 18, The Sportsground
– Leinster have won three of their last four matches in all competitions. They have been defeated just once at the RDS since October 2007 – an 18-0 loss to Munster in the Magners League on September 28 last
– Connacht’s 12-6 victory over Munster last Sunday made it three wins in-a-row in all competitions for the westerners. However, they have not won four successive matches since the 2003/04 season
– Connacht have won just once on the road in the Magners League since September 2006 – a 13-11 success at the Dragons on April 18 last – and have not won away from home against a fellow Irish province since a 26-23 victory over Leinster at Donnybrook in the league on September 13, 2002
– Connacht beat Leinster 19-18 at the Sportsground on October 5 last and are going for their first ever ‘season’s double’ over an Irish side