Leinster will chase their first win of the Magners League campaign when the Dragons visit the RDS on Saturday. The omens for a home victory are good, with Leinster having won their last nine games at the RDS in all competitions and the home side prevailing in the last four Leinster-Dragons encounters.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, September 12
LEINSTER (7th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (1st), The RDS, 7pm (live Setanta Sports 1)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in Saturday night’s Magners League clash at the RDS has been named.
Mike Ross and Shaun Berne are two of three Leinster players making their home debuts for the province in Saturday’s game.
The third player, David Kearney, is named on the left wing and also makes his second Leinster appearance in a back-three which includes Isa Nacewa and Shane Horgan.
In the pack, Devin Toner partners skipper Leo Cullen in second row, with Sean O’Brien coming into the team to start at number 8.
Gordon D’Arcy and Nathan Hines are named on a strong replacements bench which also includes summer signing Eoin Reddan.
Meanwhile, former Wales lock Robert Sidoli will make his full competitive debut for the Dragons after being used off the bench in last week’s win over Ulster.
The Dragons, who topped the league table after round one, are without the services of their captain Tom Willis.
The hooker has been ruled out for the rest of the month after injurying his calf against Ulster. Giant Wales lock Luke Charteris will lead the side in Dublin.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Shaun Berne, David Kearney; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Keane; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Stan Wright, Nathan Hines, Stephen Keogh, Eoin Reddan, Gordon D’Arcy, Simon Keogh.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Aled Brew, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith, Richard Fussell; James Arlidge, Wayne Evans; Ali McKenzie, Steve Jones, Nigel Hall, Robert Sidoli, Luke Charteris (capt), Dan Lydiate, Gavin Thomas, Grant Webb.
Replacements: Duane Goodfield, Hugh Gustafson, Gethin Robinson, Adam Jones, James Harris, Jason Tovey, Alex Walker.
Referee: Graham Knox (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Jonathan Peak (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Tony Redmond (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 2/11; Draw: 22/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 7/2
Say What: Shaun Berne (Leinster) – “I want to play as many games as I can for the first team. I signed before Leinster won the Heineken Cup and that was great.
“I knew Rocky Elsom and Chris Whitaker from back home and the coaching staff but now that I have met all the boys I want to be part of that winning culture that they have built up.
“I think it has taken a few years of hard graft. Everyone in the club wants to keep that going and I want to be part of that. My ambition is to be part of the team and win more silverware for Leinster Rugby.
“Leinster will need the next generation. I don’t want to hinder that in any way.
“After your D’Arcys and O’Driscolls you need that next wave coming through. I think that is what Michael Cheika is trying to get happening and I want to be part of that as well.
“As well as playing myself, (it’s about) developing a winning team here as well.”
Paul Turner (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “We have talked about not believing what people are now saying about us.
“We have talked about the fact that people are taking the mick out of us being top of the table. But everybody knows that the table doesn’t come into consideration until three or four games into the season.
“When I was a kid, the football league didn’t even publish tables until three games into the season.
“We have won a game of rugby and that is all we have done. We want to be more consistent and that is what are aiming to achieve.
“I just felt Leinster did everything but win the game. How they didn’t win it I will never know, but the Scarlets took their opportunities.
“Leinster, just like Munster, don’t have a bad side, even without their Lions or internationals.
“We are talking about a quality team, but we muscled up over there last season and just couldn’t hold onto the lead we had built up.”
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, November 4, 2006 – Leinster 35 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, Donnybrook
Friday, April 13, 2007 – Newport Gwent Dragons 22 Leinster 23, Rodney Parade
Saturday, May 3, 2008 – Leinster 41 Newport Gwent Dragons 8, The RDS
Friday, May 9, 2008 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Leinster 26, Rodney Parade
Saturday, November 29, 2008 – Leinster 29 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, The RDS
Saturday, May 16, 2008 – Newport Gwent Dragons 18 Leinster 9, Rodney Parade
– Leinster have lost back-to-back matches in the Magners League, with both of those games on the road
– The European champions have won their last nine games at the RDS in all competitions since Munster won there on September 28, 2008
– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won their last two Magners League games but both were played at Rodney Parade. The Dragons’ only away win in the league since September 19, 2008 was a 25-20 triumph over Glasgow Warriors at Firhill Arena on January 9 last
– The men of Gwent have won just once in their last 20 visits to Ireland since October 2004 – 16-14 at Ulster last September
– The last four encounters between the two teams have been won by the home side on the day. The Dragons have yet to win in six previous matches on Leinster soil