Teenager Andrew Conway, a member of the current Ireland Under-20 squad, will make his full debut for Leinster as they look to stretch their unbeaten run to seven matches, with victory over the Cardiff Blues on Sunday.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Sunday, March 7
CARDIFF BLUES (8th) v LEINSTER (3rd), Cardiff City Stadium, 4pm (live Setanta Sports Ireland/BBC Wales)
Team News: Shane Jennings and Eoin Reddan return from Ireland duty and have been included in the Leinster starting line-up for the trip to Cardiff.
Jennings forms a back row unit which includes Kevin McLaughlin and Stephen Keogh, with Malcolm O’Kelly locking down alongside Devin Toner.
CJ van der Linde starts at tighthead prop in a front row that includes Bernard Jackman and Stan Wright.
Reddan partners Shaun Berne at half-back, with Isa Nacewa named on the left wing.
The experienced Girvan Dempsey and 18-year-old Andrew Conway, who comes in for his first senior start for the province, complete the back-three.
Ireland Under-20 captain Rhys Ruddock is named amongst the replacements alongside the likes of Ireland internationals Trevor Hogan and Mike Ross.
Meanwhile, Wales back rower Andy Powell will be on the bench when the Cardiff Blues entertain the reigning European Cup champions Leinster.
Blues boss David Young has named a strong team with only two changes from the side that beat Glasgow Warriors 30-7 at Firhill Arena a fortnight ago.
Scott Morgan starts in the second row in place of Deiniol Jones, while Sam Warburton returns from Wales duty and starts at openside flanker.
CARDIFF BLUES: Ben Blair; Tom James, Casey Laulala, Tom Shanklin, Chris Czekaj; Ceri Sweeney, Gareth Cooper; Taufa’ao Filise, Rhys Thomas, Gary Powell, Scott Morgan, Paul Tito (capt), Ma’ama Molitika, Sam Warburton, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Huw Dowden, Scott Andrews, Andries Pretorius, Andy Powell, Lloyd Williams, Sam Norton-Knight, Dafydd Hewitt.
LEINSTER: Girvan Dempsey; Andrew Conway, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa; Shaun Berne, Eoin Reddan; Stan Wright, Bernard Jackman, CJ van der Linde, Devin Toner, Malcolm O’Kelly, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings (capt), Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Trevor Hogan, Rhys Ruddock, Paul O’Donohoe, Ian Madigan, Simon Keogh.
Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Leighton Hodges, Phil Connett (both Wales)
Television Match Official: Hugh Watkins (Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 2/5; Draw: 18/1; Leinster to win: 15/8
Pre-Match Quotes: Shaun Berne (Leinster) – “Even though we won last time out against Cardiff at the RDS, Sunday’s game will be a real test for us coming, as it does, when so many of our players are away on international duty.
“At this time of year, the squad’s resources are stretched, but with a few of the international players returning, we’re in a good frame of mind ahead of the game.
“Having played Cardiff twice before with Bath, you know what to expect against them, or any Welsh side for that matter – pride, physicality and a high skill level.
“They’re a passionate rugby playing people and rugby’s pretty much a national past-time over there.
“From a player’s perspective it’s a great place to play and with the new stadium and a good surface to play on it should make for an exciting game.
“Even though we have big games coming up this month in the Magners League, we’ll take it one game at a time and we’re not looking beyond this challenge.
“For those of us who want to play regularly in the side as we approach the business end of the season, Sunday will present an opportunity to stake a claim.
“As well as the pride in representing Leinster, the Ireland players who have been released this week will no doubt look to Jonathan Sexton’s example last month when a good showing against the Scarlets helped him earn a spot in the win over England last weekend.
“It’s imperative that we begin well and look to dominate the key exchanges and if we manage that, we’ll need to be playing at the top of our game to get the win.”
David Young (Cardiff Blues) – “Our last three home matches in the Magners League are against Irish opposition, starting with Leinster, followed by Ulster at the end of the month and Munster in May.
“We know all of these matches will be tough challenges with Irish rugby on a high following last season’s achievements. So we know we have a difficult run in, starting with Sunday’s game.
“While our cup form has been good this season, our Magners League form has not been up to standard.
“With only a few games left in the league and important qualification for the Heineken Cup at stake, every point is important for us.
“Obviously we were all pleased with our last league performance and result with our win up in Glasgow.
We completely dominated the game and with 10 minutes left we were 30-0 up, having scored three tries.
“Our record against Glasgow has not been brilliant, having not won there since 2005, so perhaps it is greedy to have wanted a bonus point.”
Top Scorers – 2009/10 Magners League: Cardiff Blues – Points: Ben Blair 105; Tries: Tom James 5; Leinster – Points: Jonathan Sexton 93; Tries: Shane Horgan, Isa Nacewa 2 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Saturday, October 31, 2009 – Leinster 23 Cardiff Blues 6, the RDS
– Cardiff Blues have won their last five matches in all competitions since Edinburgh beat them 21-12 at Murrayfield in the Magners League on January 9
– No Irish side has beaten the Blues in Cardiff since Leinster did so at the Arms Park in the Magners League on September 28, 2007
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last six games since a 30-14 loss at the Newport Gwent Dragons in the Magners League on December 6
– The Irish province have not won on the road in the Magners League since September 26
– The Blues are winless in their last five encounters with Leinster since their 27-11 victory at the Arms Park on May 11, 2007