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Magners Preview: Connacht v Leinster

Magners Preview: Connacht v Leinster

Connacht and Leinster return to Magners League action on the back of encouraging European wins over Bayonne and Saracens respectively. A bumper crowd is expected at the Sportsground as the sides meet for the first time since the westerners’ rousing 27-13 victory in April.

MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, October 23

CONNACHT (7th) v LEINSTER (8th), the Sportsground, 6.05pm (live RTE Two)

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Team News: Connacht coach Eric Elwood has named an unchanged team for Saturday’s Magners League derby clash with Leinster.

The westerners’ matchday squad sees just one change on the replacements bench, Ezra Taylor replacing Andrew Browne who is ruled out through illness.

Taylor injured his knee in the opening game of the Magners League against the Newport Gwent Dragons, and is set to make his return.

Ireland trio John Muldoon, Sean Cronin and Gavin Duffy are included in the same team that beat French high flyers Bayonne in the Amlin Challenge Cup last weekend.

Winger Darragh Fanning is set to make his full Magners League debut, while former Australia Schools and Under-19 international Barry Fa’amausili is another newcomer to league rugby on the replacements bench.

The powerfully-built prop, now 22, made his European bow for Connacht against I Cavalieri Estra recently.

Meanwhile, the Leinster team to face Connacht in Saturday’s Magners League showdown in Galway has been named.

Fit-again captain Leo Cullen will make his first start of the season after coming on as a second half replacement during Leinster’s 25-23 Heineken Cup victory over Saracens last weekend.

The Newtownmountkennedy man will partner Devin Toner in the second row, fresh from his call-up to the Ireland squad earlier this week.

Isaac Boss joins Jonathan Sexton at half-back, with Eoin O’Malley lining up at centre with Fergus McFadden in a back-line which also includes Shane Horgan, Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa.

Andrew Conway’s good form, after the Ireland Under-20 winger scored a brace of tries in Leinster’s opening round 33-28 British & Irish Cup win over Newport last Sunday, sees him take his place alongside fellow replacements Gordon D’Arcy, Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan.

In all, Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has made four changes to his starting line-up. The combinations in the back-three, back row and front row remain intact.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Darragh Fanning, Niva Ta’auso, Keith Matthews, Fionn Carr; Ian Keatley, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Sean Cronin, Jamie Hagan, Michael Swift, Michael McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa, John Muldoon (capt).

Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Barry Fa’amausili, Ronan Loughney, Bernie Upton, Ezra Taylor, Cillian Willis, Miah Nikora, Troy Nathan.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Heinke van der Merwe, Simon Shawe, Nathan Hines, Dominic Ryan, Eoin Reddan, Gordon D’Arcy, Andrew Conway.

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Peter Roche (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Connacht to win: 19/10; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 2/5

Pre-Match Quotes: Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “This is a derby match against Leinster, we have a decent record at home, it should be a sell-out crowd, and it has all the makings of a great match.

“Leinster have momentum with two great wins in Europe, and they have an extra incentive because we are currently ahead of them in the league. I believe they will show us respect, and travel strong.

“Games are won in the forwards. They set the platform, they set the tone, the speed at the rucks, and we are looking very much to be on top.

“Last weekend the lads showed great character and a fighting spirit against a Bayonne side with a €;15.9 million budget, but we came out the right side of the result.

“Yes, if we get the performance, quality rugby, and the win, that’s the perfect scenario, but I will take winning ugly every week.

“Leinster have quality players and have the capability to score tries from anywhere and they are exceptionally dangerous from set pieces, but our defence has been working extremely hard and we are now getting rewards, and I am expecting us to have the same work ethic and mindset on Saturday.

“We have a certain strength that is different to other teams and that’s what we bring to the fore when we play. It would be foolish to say we have more strike power, but we work extremely hard and there are other elements we bring to our game.”

Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “I’m expecting Connacht to really charge at us, particularly some of our exports (who are) there.

“There are some really good young guys who have gone there and are showing a fair bit of form – the likes of Jamie Hagan, Ian Keatley and Fionn Carr, just to name a few.

“I know that they’ll be really motivated. I know that Connacht see themselves as the underdog and they’re always highly motivated for these Leinster matches.

“I was pretty happy to get the win (over Saracens) because to get an away win in the Heineken Cup, in the pool that we’re in, was always going to be a tough task. To have achieved that was a really good step forward.

“I thought that our discipline was pretty good against Saracens, though we did struggle a bit in the last 20 minutes.

“Having had a good look at the video, we got some pretty tough calls against us in that last 20 minutes, so we have to try and maintain that discipline and improve upon it this week.

“I thought our defence was really good, so I think we’ll be looking to put a few more attacking phases together.

“Connacht could have, and maybe should have, beaten Ulster in the last Irish match-up that they had. With the quality of the start of the season that Ulster have had, it speaks volumes for what Eric (Elwood) has done there and is doing there currently.

“The confidence that they will bring to the game means that that there’s no doubt that they will come very hard (at us) right from the start.”

Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Connacht – Points: Ian Keatley 78; Tries: Fionn Carr 4; Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 54; Tries: Isa Nacewa 2


Friday, November 2, 2007 – Leinster 29 Connacht 9, the RDS
Friday, February 29, 2008 – Connacht 10 Leinster 16, the Spottsground
Sunday, October 5, 2008 – Connacht 19 Leinster 18, the Sportsground
Fiday, January 2, 2009 – Leinster 26 Connacht 18, the RDS
Saturday, March 27, 2010 – Leinster 17 Connacht 14, the RDS
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 – Connacht 27 Leinster 13, the Sportsground


– Connacht beat Bayonne 16-13 at the Sportsground in the Amlin Challenge Cup last Friday, ending a three-match winless run

– Connacht’s only defeat in their last five home games in all competitions was a 19-12 loss to Toulon in the semi-final of last season’s Amlin Challenge Cup

– Leinster have won their last three games since their 32-24 reversal in Edinburgh on September 24

– The Leinstermen have lost only one of their last six encounters with fellow Irish provinces, going down 27-13 at the Sportsground in this equivalent fixture last season

– The last four games between the two teams have all been won by the home side on the day. Leinster’s most recent victory in Galway was a 16-10 triumph in February 2008