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Keogh To Lead Leinster In Newport

Keogh To Lead Leinster In Newport

The Leinster team to face Newport in the opening round of the British & Irish Cup at Rodney Parade on Sunday (kick-off 2.30pm) has been named.

Stephen Keogh captains a Leinster side which includes a strong blend of youth and experience.

Andrew Conway and Brendan Macken are named in the back-line after featuring for the Ireland Under-20s last season, with Paul O’Donohoe linking up at half-back with Ian Madigan.

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Up front, there are starts for summer signings Ben Prescott and Mariano Galarza. The highly-regarded Eoin Sheriff completes the back row alongside Paul Ryan and Keogh.

Colin McEntee coaches the province’s second string side and will be assisted in the backroom team by Leinster greats Girvan Dempsey and Malcolm O’Kelly, who has been appointed as team manager.

McEntee believes that Leinster can use their experiences of the inaugural British & Irish Cup to their benefit in the fight to qualify for this season’s quarter-finals.

“In my eyes, the British & Irish Cup is a competition with a real future because it provides players with the opportunity to impress in a competitive environment,” he said.

“The quality of opposition on show last season mirrored the professionalism of the clubs in their approach and I suppose the Exeter Chiefs sum up all that is good about the competition. They were riding high in the Championship when we faced them in Sandy Park and they’re now a Premiership side.

“Their facilities were really professional and to play in front of a few thousand people did some of the younger players who were out that day the world of good.

“Over the years, aside from a few sporadic interprovincial derbies and the odd ‘A’ games against the likes of Saracens, Bristol and Glasgow, there were a large group of players crying out for games.

“Since day one we have always taken the British & Irish Cup seriously and it was never a case of throwing in a bunch of young players and seeing how they went.

“It’s important to have a blend of youth and experience and the scheduling last season – when we played matches during the November and Six Nations windows – meant that a lot of fringe players, or players who were coming back from injury, got valuable game time.”

He added: “We’re in a very competitive pool this season against the reigning champions, the Cornish Pirates, Worcester Warriors, Currie, Plymouth Albion and Newport.

“Newport beat us (10-6) in Donnybrook last season and it was a really physical game and an eye opener for us. Any time you travel to Rodney Parade poses a massive challenge and it will be no different for us.

“They have taken a few scalps there over the years and they’re a club with a big history who are doing well in the Welsh Premiership. We’re working hard in preparation for and we know that we have to bring hunger and intensity to the game.”

McEntee’s men have a busy schedule of matches in the coming months, with two ‘A’ interprovincials against Munster (Clonmel, November 2) and Ulster Ravens (November 20, Donnybrook) coming before their second British & Irish Cup Pool A game against Plymouth Albion (December 10, Donnybrook).

LEINSTER (v Newport): Niall Morris; Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Ian McKinley, David Kearney; Ian Madigan, Paul O’Donohoe; Jack McGrath, Tom Sexton, Ben Prescott, Trevor Hogan, Mariano Galarza, Eoin Sheriff, Paul Ryan, Stephen Keogh (capt).

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Stewart Maguire, Ciaran Ruddock, Ben Marshall, John Cooney, Noel Reid, Michael Keating.