Having slipped up against Connacht, the pressure is on Leinster to deliver a winning performance against Cardiff Blues before moving on to host Munster at the Aviva Stadium next week.
GUINNESS PRO12: Friday, September 26
LEINSTER (7th) v CARDIFF BLUES (8th), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4)
Team News: Kane Douglas has been named to start his first match for Leinster against Cardiff Blues in the GUINNESS PRO12 at the RDS on Friday.
Douglas, the newly-arrived Australian lock, took part in training this week with his new team-mates and has been chosen to feature in the second row alongside Devin Toner.
Speaking earlier in the week, head coach Matt O’Connor said Douglas was ‘fresh’ and ‘really eager to get involved’, and the new signing will get his chance in front of the home supporters at the RDS.
The team to face Cardiff also sees Gordon D’Arcy named at outside centre for his first start of the season – he will combine with Ian Madigan in midfield.
Jamie Heaslip will captain the province again from the back row where he is joined by Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan, the latter making his fourth successive start of the current campaign.
Martin Moore will make his seasonal bow in the front row, with Michael Bent and hooker Sean Cronin completing the starting pack.
The back-three that started last Friday’s interprovincial defeat to Connacht are retained, Darragh Fanning and Fergus McFadden taking their places on the wings and Rob Kearney will start at full-back. Jimmy Gopperth and Eoin Reddan also continue at half-back.
Tickets for the Leinster v Cardiff Blues match are still available, with over 14,500 now sold. Click here to buy your tickets now.
Meanwhile, hooker Kristian Dacey will make his 50th appearance and winger George Watkins his debut when Cardiff take on the defending league champions in Dublin.
Milestone man Dacey is one of seven changes made by Blues director of rugby Mark Hammett as the regional side look to return to winning ways following back-to-back defeats.
Wales international prop Gethin Jenkins will make his first league appearance of the season alongside Dacey in the front row.
Two further call-ups in the pack see lock Chris Dicomidis set for his first start of the current campaign, while flanker Sam Warburton returns in the back row. Josh Navidi moves to number 8 and will captain the team.
Cory Allen and Dafydd Hewitt will fill the centre berths and winger Watkins is rewarded with a start out wide after scoring five tries in two recent outings for Cardiff RFC.
A powerful bench includes hooker Matthew Rees, back rower Manoa Vosawai and scrum half Tavis Knoyle who could also make his league debut for Blues. Lock Filo Paulo and centre Gavin Evans both miss the game through injury.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Ian Madigan, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Kane Douglas, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Bryan Byrne, Ed Byrne, Tadhg Furlong, Mike McCarthy, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Steve Crosbie, Mick McGrath.
CARDIFF BLUES: Rhys Patchell; Alex Cuthbert, Cory Allen, Dafydd Hewitt, George Watkins; Gareth Davies, Lewis Jones; Gethin Jenkins, Kristian Dacey, Adam Jones, Jarrad Hoeata, Chris Dicomidis, Josh Turnbull, Sam Warburton, Josh Navidi (capt).
Replacements: Matthew Rees, Sam Hobbs, Taufa’ao Filise, Macauley Cook, Manoa Vosawai, Tavis Knoyle, Adam Thomas, Dan Fish.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Will O’Connor (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: John Carvill (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/25; Draw: 35/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 9/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Darragh Fanning (Leinster) – “Cardiff are a good team. They put five tries past Zebre, then they lost to Glasgow – we already learned how good a team they are. Then they lost to Ulster but they were in it at half-time in both their last losses.
“It could have gone either way. But it’s one lapse in concentration, like last weekend the intercept killed them. Hopefully we come out the right side on Friday.
“For us as a squad, we can only focus on this week. We can’t win the Munster match this week. We just have to focus on beating Cardiff, because if we focus on Munster, Cardiff will come and do a job on us.
“Our focus is purely based on Cardiff, but of course, we want to come off the back of a win. We want to be in good form going into the Munster match (next week), because it’s going to be huge for us.
“There will be no hiding at the Aviva (Stadium). It’s a massive derby. There’s a huge amount of tickets sold already.”
Mark Hammett (Cardiff Blues) – “Leinster are the champions for a reason and they have an extremely strong side and very powerful squad. We are all certainly looking forward to the challenge that we will face over in Dublin.
“The atmosphere will be big over there and we got have to be ready for that. We are working exceptionally hard every week in training to improve and I felt our attack was much better last week against Ulster.
“But we are not finishing our chances when they are there, and we certainly created some good opportunities and drew penalties last week.
“We now need to get across the line and show that clinical edge against a well drilled and talented Leinster side.”
Top Scorers – 2014/15 GUINNESS PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 34; Tries: Rob Kearney, Ian Madigan 2 each; Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 42; Tries: Kristian Dacey, Lloyd Williams, Rhys Patchell, Dan Fish, Alex Cuthbert 1 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Friday, December 2, 2011 – Leinster 52 Cardiff Blues 9, the RDS
Saturday, January 7, 2012 – Leinster 19 Cardiff Blues 23, Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday, October 27, 2012 – Leinster 59 Cardiff Blues 22, the RDS
Friday, February 8, 2013 – Cardiff Blues 11 Leinster 26, Cardiff Arms Park
Friday, September 27, 2013 – Leinster 34 Cardiff Blues 20, the RDS
Thursday, February 20, 2014 – Cardiff Blues 22 Leinster 34, Cardiff Arms Park
– All three of Leinster’s GUINNESS PRO12 encounters this season have been won by the home side on the day, while the Leinstermen have not been defeated at the RDS in any competition since Ulster were the visitors in the PRO12 in March 2013
– No Welsh side has beaten Leinster in Dublin since the Ospreys did so in the 2012 league final
– Cardiff Blues’ only win in their last four PRO12 fixtures came away at Zebre in round 1
– The Welshmen have not scored a try in 173 minutes of rugby, but have won three of their last four away games
– The Blues’ only victory in their last 15 encounters with Leinster in all competitions was 11-3 at Cardiff City Stadium in the PRO12 in February 2011
– The Welshmen’s only previous victory over Leinster in Dublin came at Donnybrook in March 2004