A win for Leinster over the Newport Gwent Dragons would move the province into the play-off zone as Joe Schmidt’s charges return to Magners League action at the RDS.
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Friday, November 19
LEINSTER (6th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (10th), the RDS, 7.05pm (live RTE Two)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in Friday’s Magners League encounter at the RDS has been named.
Clint Newland will make his debut for Leinster and the New Zealand Maori prop will line up in a front row which includes Heinke van der Merwe and the province’s Player of the Month Richardt Strauss.
In all, there are four Ireland internationals in the pack, including lock Leo Cullen who leads the side.
Isaac Boss partners the fit-again Shaun Berne at half-back, with Eoin O’Malley continuing his centre partnership with Old Belvedere club-mate Fergus McFadden.
The in-form Isa Nacewa is named in the back-three alongside Shane Horgan and David Kearney. Ed O’Donoghue takes his place amongst the replacements after missing the last five games through injury.
Head coach Joe Schmidt says that having the likes of Cullen, Boss and Mike Ross back from Ireland squad duty is ‘a real bonus’ as Leinster look to make it six successive wins in all competitions.
Meanwhile, the Newport Gwent Dragons captain Tom Willis returns to lead Paul Turner’s team as they travel to Dublin to face Leinster.
Turner has made several changes to the side which suffered a 28-3 defeat at Northampton in the LV= Cup last weekend, and are boosted by the return of a number of regulars as they resume their league campaign.
Wales’ Will Harries has been released from Warren Gatland’s national squad for this game and takes his place on the right wing, with Tom Cheeseman moving to centre, where he partners the returning Ashley Smith.
Pat Leach continues at full-back, a position covered earlier this season by Harries.
Jason Tovey and Wayne Evans also return to the starting line-up as James Leadbeater and Matthew Jones drop to the bench.
Adam Hughes and Phil Price have both recovered from injuries and will also start at the RDS.
Nigel Hall packs down alongside Price and Willis in the front row, and Adam Jones is retained at blindside flanker.
Gavin Thomas returns and Lewis Evans completes the back row, starting at number 8. Scott Morgan and Robert Sidoli make up the second row, with Luke Charteris listed amongst the replacements.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, David Kearney; Shaun Berne, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Clint Newland, Leo Cullen (capt), Trevor Hogan, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Ed O’Donoghue, Dominic Ryan, Paul O’Donohoe, Ian Madigan, Andrew Conway.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Pat Leach; Will Harries, Tom Cheeseman, Ashley Smith, Adam Hughes; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Phil Price, Tom Willis (capt), Nigel Hall, Scott Morgan, Robert Sidoli, Adam Jones, Gavin Thomas, Lewis Evans.
Replacements: Lloyd Burns, Dan Way, Hugh Gustafson, Luke Charteris, Hugo Ellis, Rhodri Gomer Davies, James Leadbeater, Matthew Jones.
Referee: Carlo Damasco (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Jude Quinn (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/6; Draw: 25/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “It’s a little bit like Edinburgh all over again, except we’re a little bit more exposed. I’m relatively excited about it.
“I can’t promise that it will work out, but I can certainly promise that the young guys won’t fault in character or courage.
“They will want to get their hands on the ball like they did against Edinburgh and show some of the qualities that will give us a bit of confidence going forward.
“I think they’ve appreciated the break. We had a little bit of time, we trained for three days last week – not the whole week – and we had a bit of fun on a go kart track at the end of the week just to break things up.
“I think when there is a lot of pressure and you finally have a weekend where you don’t have to go out physically and play the next day, it’s great just to have a pressure valve released a little.”
Darren Edwards (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “Leinster have got a really decent squad. We have got to approach it the same way we went down to the Ospreys (and won).
“One good thing about our squad is that they are battle hardened and hopefully they will do a good job.
“Leinster have got quite a decent amount of foreign players, and in particular a lot of influential foreign players, and during this time of the year these players step up to the plate.
“We have got to be targeting a decent result. We have got to get some points in some shape of form. We have got to hold our nerve.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 73; Tries: Isa Nacewa 3; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Matthew Jones 47; Tries: Will Harries, Adam Hughes 3 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, May 3, 2008 – Leinster 41 Newport Gwent Dragons 8, the RDS
Friday, May 9, 2008 – Newport Gwent Dragons 31 Leinster 26, Rodney Parade
Saturday, November 29, 2008 – Leinster 29 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, the RDS
Saturday, May 16, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 18 Leinster 9, Rodney Parade
Saturday, September 12, 2009 – Leinster 23 Newport Gwent Dragons 14, the RDS
Sunday, December 6, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 30 Leinster 14, Rodney Parade
– Leinster have won their last five games in all competitions since their 32-24 reversal at Edinburgh on September 24
– The Leinstermen won their only previous encounter with a Welsh side this season, a 34-23 triumph a the Cardiff Blues at the RDS in round 2 of the Magners League
– The Newport Gwent Dragons have won their last two games in the Magners League since a 20-13 defeat at Treviso on October 1
– The Dragons have won three successive Magners League games since the 2004/05 season. The last six meetings between these two teams have all been won by the home side on the day
– The Dragons have lost all seven previous games they have played on Leinster soil