Some of Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning heroes will go head-to-head in a big RDS showdown on Sunday as defending Magners League champions Leinster entertain their provincial rivals Ulster, who, of course, are coached by former Leinster boss Matt Williams.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, March 29
LEINSTER (2nd) v ULSTER (6th), The RDS, 5.30pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/Setanta Sports 2)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Ulster in Sunday’s Magners League derby clash at the RDS has been named.
Ireland’s Grand Slam-winning centre Gordon D’Arcy will start in Leinster’s midfield, partnering Fergus McFadden for the interprovincial derby in a back-line which includes Shane Horgan, Girvan Dempsey and returning scrum half Chris Whitaker.
In the pack, team captain Leo Cullen returns from injury and he will partners Malcolm O’Kelly in the second row. The Magners League champions’ replacements bench will be confirmed closer to kick-off.
Over 14,500 tickets have now been sold for the Leinster-Ulster showdown.
Tickets are on sale from Ticketmaster outlets nationwide and from the Leinster Rugby Store and Spar in Donnybrook.
Tickets will also be available to purchase from Ticketmaster Box Offices at the RDS from 1.30pm on Sunday.
The RBS 6 Nations Trophy is set to be the star attraction at an action-packed day of entertainment at the RDS.
The trophy will be paraded prior to kick-off by the returning Grand Slam heroes before the Harrington Brothers take to the stage with their rendition of Molly Malone 2009.
Meanwhile, Ulster coach Matt Williams has named three of the province’s recent Grand Slam winners in his team for this weekend’s trip south to Dublin.
Two changes have been made to the Ulster starting line-up, from the team that defeated Glasgow Warriors three weeks ago.
Fresh from last weekend’s memorable triumph over Wales, Paddy Wallace takes his place at inside centre, with youngster Ian Whitten dropping back to the replacements bench.
Tom Court also returns from RBS 6 Nations duty to don the number 1 jersey, in place of Justin Fitzpatrick.
Grand Slam hooker Rory Best will again captain the Ulster side, while his Ireland team-mate Stephen Ferris sits out the game out due to a dislocated finger.
Sunday’s interprovincial game sees the return of powerful South African Robbie Diack to the matchday squad, after missing Ulster’s last four games through injury.
Prop Bryan Young and winger Timoci Nagusa are two other notable inclusions on the bench.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Felipe Contepomi, Chris Whitaker; Cian Healy, Bernard Jackman, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Malcolm O’Kelly, Cameron Jowitt, Shane Jennings, Rocky Elsom
Replacements (from): John Fogarty, CJ Van Der Linde, Ronan McCormack, Trevor Hogan, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Paul O’Donohoe, Jonathan Sexton, Simon Keogh.
ULSTER: Clinton Schifcofske; Andrew Trimble, Darren Cave, Paddy Wallace, Simon Danielli; Ian Humphreys, Isaac Boss; Tom Court, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Ed O’Donoghue, Ryan Caldwell, Matt McCullough, David Pollock, Chris Henry.
Replacements: Nigel Brady, Bryan Young, Carlo Del Fava, Robbie Diack, Cillian Willis, Ian Whitten, Timoci Nagusa.
Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Darragh McCormack (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Bertie Smith (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 2/7; Draw: 22/1; Ulster to win: 5/2
Say What: Michael Cheika (Leinster) – “There are some very big games coming up over the next three weeks in the context of retaining the Magners League title.
“The derby nature of the next two games (against Ulster and Munster), as well as the European qualification (against Harlequins). It’s going to be in an interesting combination of which players play and when.
“Obviously if you look at Ulster they have a few players like (Rory) Best, Paddy Wallace and Tom Court who will all be returning from the Irish team. It’s a big test for us.
“I think that Ulster will be buoyed by their win against Munster at Thomond Park and they will definitely be targeting that ‘away double.’
“We got two very good results away in Wales and everybody’s excited about getting back to playing regularly again.
“You can feel the energy and enthusiasm in training and I’d like to think that we have improved a little bit over that time.
“We know that our title aspirations are in the next two games, but all that we can manage is our result against Ulster.”
Matt Williams (Ulster) – “I think it’s going to be a hard sell, Leinster haven’t had a home game for a long time, just after the Grand Slam a lot of people want to see some rugby.
“It will be a great day. It’s a day you want to play and a day you want to coach. There will be no shortage of passion or excitement.
“Just to get everyone back has been a great week for us. We want to go down and play for each other and play for the jersey, as will Leinster and when you get two teams that are passionate for it, you’ll get a great game.
“I have asked the guys to make sure they turn up this week – if you don’t turn up against a side like Leinster they’ll kill you.
“They play beautiful rugby and are very structured. They have a lot of systems they use and they are a very complex team which means they are hard to predict, and if a team is hard to predict it’s hard to defend against.
“We’re a side that is going forward and they don’t necessarily like playing us, so we have to turn up and make it awkward for them.
“I’ve only played Leinster once since being here and I was very unhappy with the way we turned up that day. We weren’t as passionate and committed as we should have been.”
Top Scorers: 2008/09 Magners League – Points: Leinster: Felipe Contepomi 138; Ulster: Ian Humphreys 69; Tries: Leinster: Luke Fitzgerald 5; Ulster: Darren Cave 4
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Monday, December 26, 2005 – Ulster 19 Ulster 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
Saturday, December 27, 2008 – Ulster 13 Leinster 21, Ravenhill
– Leinster have won their last six matches in the Magners League since their 15-12 slip-up at Glasgow on October 24. Their only home defeat in their last 19 games at the RDS in all competitions since November 2007 was an 18-0 loss to Munster on September 28 last
– Ulster have won just two of their last five games in the Magners League. They have also won just once on the road in all competitions since November 2007 – 37-11 at Munster on January 3
– Ulster’s only defeat to a fellow Irish province in their last six such encounters was a 21-13 loss at home to Leinster on December 27
– Leinster are going for a ‘season’s double’ over Ulster for the first time since the 2005/06 season
– Ulster have not beaten Sunday’s opponents on Leinster soil since a 26-15 victory at Donnybrook in the Interprovincial Championship on August 13, 1999