The Leinster squad to face Connacht in Saturday’s Magners League derby at the Sportsground (kick-off 4pm) has been named.
Scotland international Nathan Hines is in contention for selection having missed Leinster’s 15-3 victory over Ulster last weekend and bolsters a strong squad showing a mix of youth and experience.
A string of Ireland internationals – Leo Cullen, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Trevor Hogan, Shane Horgan, Bernard Jackman, Sean O’Brien, Malcolm O’Kelly and Mike Ross – have been included alongside the likes of Ian Madigan, Jack McGrath and Paul Ryan who are rewarded for their recent good form in the British & Irish Cup.
Shaun Berne impressed once more in making his tenth Leinster appearance at the RDS last Saturday and the former Australia ‘A’ out-half has now scored 41 points in all competitions.
Fergus McFadden and Paul O’Donohoe have also been selected in the extended panel, with both products of the Leinster Academy having made their European bows in the back-to-back victories over the Scarlets this month.
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s interprovincial encounter, Leinster consultant coach Alan Gaffney said that despite defeating Ulster, the squad are looking for a marked improvement in their performance against an improved Connacht side.
“We know from experience that we’ll face tough opposition up in Galway, so irrespective of their defeat to Munster last weekend, we know to expect a backlash from them,” said Gaffney.
“We expect them to select from a full compliment (of players) this weekend and I’m sure that they will be keen to redress that result down at Thomond Park.
“You always get a tough contest at the Sportsground, but it will be a good test for us and one that we are looking forward to.
“It will be a real battle this week. Connacht have a very competitive forward pack – Sean Cronin and Brett Wilkinson were involved with the Ireland squad over the November series, not to mention the likes of Jamie Hagan, who we know, and Johnny Muldoon who is an excellent performer.
“They’re a hard grafting pack, and that’s not to mention their back-line who don’t get the credit that they deserve. They have scored some good tries in recent weeks so it will be a test of our defence as well.
“From our perspective we weren’t happy with how we played against Ulster. We know that we have to maintain higher standards and that starts again for us this weekend because we want to keep a high placing in the Magners League.
“It is important that we go out this weekend and play some attacking rugby like we know that we can, because we didn’t manage that against Ulster.
“I know that the boys have got their heads screwed on for the challenge ahead and we will look to approach the game in a positive manner.”
LEINSTER Squad (v Connacht) – Backs (11): Shaun Berne, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Shane Horgan, David Kearney, Simon Keogh, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa, Paul O’Donohoe, Eoin Reddan.
Forwards (15): Leo Cullen, Nathan Hines, Trevor Hogan, Bernard Jackman, Stephen Keogh, Ronan McCormack, Jack McGrath, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Malcolm O’Kelly, Mike Ross, Paul Ryan, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, Stan Wright.