Leinster ‘A’ are just one win away from reaching their second successive British & Irish Cup final, with the province facing current Welsh Principality Premiership leaders Pontypridd in the last-four.
BRITISH & IRISH CUP SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, April 26
PONTYPRIDD v LEINSTER ‘A’, Sardis Road, 2.30pm
Team News: The Leinster ‘A’ team to face Pontypridd in Saturday afternoon’s British & Irish Cup semi-final at Sardis Road has been named.
Head coach Girvan Dempsey has named a strong Leinster ‘A’ team to face Pontypridd as his side look to continue the defence of the title they won last season in dramatic fashion against Newcastle Falcons.
There is plenty of PRO12 experience throughout the squad with a back-line that includes Noel Reid, a player with 15 league appearances and seven tries in the competition so far.
He will be joined in midfield by Collie O’Shea, with a back-three of Darren Hudson, Brendan Macken and Sam Coghlan Murray.
Cathal Marsh, the top points scorer in this season’s British & Irish Cup with 93 points, will start in the number 10 jersey with Luke McGrath selected at scrum half.
The front row sees a return for tighthead prop Tadhg Furlong after a spell out through injury. Dominic Ryan will captain the side from the back row with centre Reid the vice-captain.
There is added incentive for Leinster ‘A’ and their Welsh opponents as whoever comes through this side of the draw will have home advantage in the final against Bristol or Leeds Carnegie.
Meanwhile, Pontypridd’s selection options have been impacted by late injuries to centre Gavin Dacey with a hamstring twinge and hooker Huw Dowden (rib cartilage damage).
They join a number of long-term absentees on the sidelines – wingers Chris Clayton (shoulder) and Alex Webber (groin), scrum half Tom Williams (ankle), prop Pat Palmer (shoulder) and flanker Jake Thomas (ankle).
Wales Sevens captain Adam Thomas makes a welcome return from a recent shoulder injury to claim the outside centre position, with prop Keiron Jenkins also declared fit after suffering a strained wrist.
Out-half Simon Humberstone and lock Chris Dicomidis return to club duties from the Blues senior squad.
PONTYPRIDD: Geraint Walsh; Lewis Williams, Adam Thomas, Dafydd Lockyer (capt), Owen Jenkins; Simon Humberstone, Joel Raikes; James Howe, Liam Belcher, Keiron Jenkins, Craig Locke, Chris Dicomidis, Wayne O’Connor, Rhys Shellard, Dan Godfrey.
Replacements: Lloyd Williams, Dai Flanagan, Aled Summerhill, Aled Morris, Jordan Sieniawski, Owen Sheppeard, Chris Phillips.
LEINSTER ‘A’: Darren Hudson; Brendan Macken, Collie O’Shea, Noel Reid, Sam Coghlan Murray; Cathal Marsh, Luke McGrath; Edward Byrne, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Quinn Roux, Ben Marshall, Dominic Ryan (capt), Jack Conan.
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Jack O’Connell, Ross Molony, Leo Auva’a, John Cooney, Steve Crosbie, Andrew Boyle.
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Pontypridd to win: 21/10; Draw: 22/1; Leinster ‘A’ to win: 4/11
Pre-Match Quotes: John Fogarty (Leinster ‘A’) – “The senior lads have had most of the week off so it’s given myself and Girvan a lot more time than normal to work with the ‘A’ players ahead of the semi-final in Wales.
“We had a full session on Tuesday which went really well. The lads have been clued in all week and are fully aware of the tough task that lies ahead.
“We’ve done a lot of video and scouting work on Pontypridd. They’re a really impressive team and we’ll have to be at our best to beat them.
“Girv has put a tremendous amount of time and detail into prepping the lads this week. To be honest, we needed as much prep time as possible with the players this week because we know how tough a challenge it is to go to Pontypridd and play them in their own back yard.
“The last time we went over there, we came away with a narrow loss. They scored a try three or four minutes into injury-time to beat us so they won’t fear us coming again.
“It’s a really unique atmosphere over there. They’re a very tribal bunch and there’s a great sense of an old school rugby-type aura down there. They love their rugby in that part of Wales so the lads shouldn’t be surprised about what they’ll be faced with on Saturday.”
Dafydd Lockyer (Pontypridd) – “Our season now hinges on a massive game on Saturday. Leinster are the current champions and arguably the best team in the tournament.
“We will go into the game as underdogs despite our home advantage, but we know this is a game we can and must win.
“We beat Leinster on our own patch last season, but this game will be a totally different proposition. Nothing but our best will do.
“With the massive home support we are expecting on Saturday, the game is there for us to win.
“The incentive of getting through to a home draw in the final is huge, but it will take a collective effort from everyone to give us any chance of achieving that.
“It’s been a tough season in many ways. We have suffered numerous injuries and we have lost coaches and players, but all that has pulled us closer together.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 British & Irish Cup: Pontypridd – Points: Simon Humberstone 75; Tries: Thomas Young, Garyn Smith 3 each; Leinster ‘A’ – Points: Cathal Marsh 93; Tries: Leo Auva’a, Darragh Fanning 3 each
ROAD TO SEMI-FINAL STAGE:
PONTYPRIDD – Pld 7, W5, D0, L2 – Pool 2: Won 53-13 away to Edinburgh Academicals; Won 29-22 at home to London Welsh; Won 27-20 at home to London Scottish; Lost 26-21 away to London Scottish; Lost 26-23 away to London Welsh; Won 43-0 at home to Edinburgh Academicals; Quarter-final: Won 16-14 away to Cornish Pirates
LEINSTER ‘A’ – Pld 7, W7, D0, L0 – Pool 1: Won 49-8 at home to Ealing Trailfinders; Won 24-22 away to Moseley; Won 31-0 at home to Cross Keys; Won 30-14 away to Cross Keys; Won 23-13 at home to Moseley; Won 14-13 away to Ealing Trailfinders; Quarter-final: Won 47-15 at home to Munster ‘A’
– Leinster ‘A’ are the reigning British & Irish Cup champions having beaten Newcastle Falcons 18-17 after extra-time in last year’s final. They have won all seven of their games to date in this season’s competition
– Leinster ‘A’ out-half Cathal Marsh is the top points scorer in this season’s British & Irish Cup with 93 points. He scored 27 points, including two tries, in their recent quarter-final defeat of Munster ‘A’ at Donnybrook
– Pontypridd edged their way to qualification from a tough Pool 2 and then gained a narrow 16-14 quarter-final win over Cornish Pirates
– Pontypridd and Leinster ‘A’ have met three times previously in the British & Irish Cup, the result going with the home side on each occasion
– In the quarter final round of the 2011/12 tournament, Leinster ‘A’ registered a comprehensive 34-0 victory in Dublin. In the pool stages the following season, Ponty won a 25-23 scoreline at Sardis Road but then lost away at Donnybrook (21-9)
– The last time that Pontypridd played such a high profile fixture was in April 2011 when Bristol were the visitors in the same round of the British & Irish Cup. A crowd estimated at over 5,000 turned up on the day