Losers at Ravenhill last weekend, Leinster will bid to get back to winning ways and extend their eight-match winning run at home in the Magners League when they entertain the Cardiff Blues on Saturday night.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 31
LEINSTER (3rd) v CARDIFF BLUES (9th), The RDS, 6.30pm (live Setanta Sports 1/S4C)
Jonathan Sexton will partner Eoin Reddan for the visit of Cardiff in a Leinster back-line which includes Shane Horgan who has been named in the back three alongside Luke Fitzgerald and Isa Nacewa.
Leo Cullen captains the Leinster team and lines up alongside Malcolm O’Kelly in a pack that includes South African prop CJ van der Linde who starts his first game of the season, having appeared as a substitute in the province’s last two games.
Cian Healy will scrum down with John Fogarty and van der Linde in the front row, while Nathan Hines, Mike Ross, Bernard Jackman and Girvan Dempsey have been named on a strong replacements bench.
Meanwhile, the Cardiff Blues travel to the RDS to face the Heineken Cup champions Leinster with 10 players missing.
Gareth Cooper, Leigh Halfpenny, Tom James, Jamie Roberts, Tom Shanklin, Bradley Davies, Gethin Jenkins, Andy Powell, Martyn Williams and Sam Warburton have all been called up to the Wales squad for their autumn Tests.
Despite recording a 20-12 win over the Ospreys last weekend, the Blues know it will be a big challenge in Dublin, having not won an away fixture so far this season and Leinster unbeaten in their last four matches with the Welsh region.
With hookers Rhys Thomas and Gareth Williams and number 7 Robin Sowden-Taylor out injured, young hooker Rhys Williams makes his first start for the Blues, while Ben White also makes his first start of the season at openside flanker.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, CJ van der Linde, Leo Cullen (capt), Malcolm O’Kelly, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Mike Ross, Nathan Hines, Stephen Keogh, Simon Keogh, Shaun Berne, Girvan Dempsey.
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Richard Mustoe, Gareth Thomas, Gavin Evans, Chris Czekaj; Sam Norton-Knight, Richie Rees; Darren Morris, Rhys Williams, Taufa’ao Filise, Deiniol Jones, Paul Tito (capt), Scott Morgan, Ben White, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Rhys James, Gary Powell, James Down, Josh Navidi, Darren Allinson, Ceri Sweeney, Dafydd James.
Referee: James Jones (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Richard Kerr (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 9/2
Say What: Jono Gibbes (Leinster forwards coach) – “Cardiff are a quality side and have strength in depth right across their squad. They have the capability to play different styles and they play with great aggression, they’re very direct and combative and we are expecting a real contest this weekend.
“They love going hard at their opponents and their backs can ask a lot of questions of your defence.
“I know a few of the players, such as Ben Blair, Rushie (Xavier Rush) and Taufa’ao Filise and they are well led by their captain Paul Tito whom I know from his time with the Hurricanes as well as the New Zealand Maori.
“Cardiff have been well served by their foreign players, but Saturday hardly presents an opportunity to meet up! Their real strength is in their collective strength as they’re a strong group who works hard for one another.
“It is an important game for us in the context of the league and we want to finish off this part of the season strongly before the break for the November internationals.
“We’re not entirely happy with our form of late, but overall we have made a positive start to the Magners League.
“Having played four games on the road in the early part of the season, it has been very tough.
“The team were obviously disappointed with the performance against Ulster and we’re looking to address some of the areas that we weren’t as clinical in.
“We need to be more aggressive in the collisions, with and without the ball, and that needs to be at a high level to deal with Cardiff’s threats.
“We have been good in that area this season, but we know that we have to up a level each week.”
Billy Millard (Cardiff Blues backs coach) – “It’s a big test for the squad, but a lot of our players who are starting have been looking for an opportunity – and this is it.
“It’s a chance for us to see if they are up to it or not. They are going to need to play at the highest level to have an impact.
“Leinster are going to be reeling from their loss to Ulster and they are going to have their full contingent, so it’s going to be interesting to see how the boys hold up.
“It’s a big ask, but we did it a few times last year. The senior players have to lead the way.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 58; Tries: Girvan Dempsey, Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan, Shaun Berne, Luke Fitzgerald 1 each; Cardiff Blues – Points: Ben Blair 56; Tries: Gareth Thomas, Chris Czekaj, Xavier Rush, Ben Blair, Paul Tito, Sam Warburton, Tom James, Gareth Cooper 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 16, 2006 – Leinster 16 Cardiff Blues 9, Donnybrook
Friday, May 11, 2007 – Cardiff Blues 27 Leinster 11, Arms Park
Friday, September 28, 2007 – Cardiff Blues 19 Leinster 30, Arms Park
Saturday, February 16, 2008 – Leinster 24 Cardiff Blues 17, The RDS
Saturday, September 6, 2008 – Cardiff Blues 16 Leinster 16, Arms Park
Saturday, January 10, 2009 – Leinster 21 Cardiff Blues 20, The RDS
– Leinster’s four-match winning run in the Magners League came to a halt with the 16-14 reversal at Ulster last weekend
– Leinster have won their last eight matches at the RDS in the Magners League since Munster won there 19-0 in September 2008
– Cardiff Blues have won two of their last three matches in the Magners League, but away from home have lost their last three fixtures in all competitions
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last four matches with the Blues, whilst Cardiff’s most recent victory in Dublin was a 22-18 success at Donnybrook on March 5, 2004