The race for the Magners League play-offs really gathering pace and tonight’s derby between Leinster and Ulster is a hugely important match. Will Leinster win and climb back into second place, or can Ulster claim their first victory in Dublin in 12 years?
MAGNERS LEAGUE: Saturday, April 16
LEINSTER (4th) v ULSTER (2nd), the RDS, 8pm (live RTE 2/BBC 2 Northern Ireland)
Team News: The Leinster team to face Ulster in Saturday night’s Magners League derby match at the RDS has been named.
Shane Jennings returns to the province’s starting line-up after missing the last two months with a knee injury. He has been named in an all-international back row alongside Kevin McLaughlin and number 8 Jamie Heaslip.
Heinke van der Merwe and Stan Wright take their places in the front row, with Devin Toner starting in the second row alongside skipper Leo Cullen.
Isaac Boss will make his 25th appearance of the season and his 100th league appearance in all, spanning both his Ulster and Leinster careers. The Ireland-capped scrum half partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back.
Eoin O’Malley lines up at centre alongside Fergus McFadden with Leinster’s top try scorer in this season’s Magners League, Shane Horgan, who has scored five tries in 13 league games, continuing in the back-three alongside Luke Fitzgerald and Isa Nacewa.
The final make-up of Leinster’s replacements bench will be announced closer to kick-off.
Meanwhile, Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has been forced to make two changes to his team for the interprovincial derby against Leinster.
South African second row Johann Muller sustained a dead leg against Northampton Saints in the Heineken Cup quarter-final last Sunday, while Scotland winger Simon Danielli picked up a shoulder injury.
Their places in the side have been taken by Tim Barker and Craig Gilroy, who have been promoted from from the replacements bench.
Neil McComb and Gilroy’s Dungannon club-mate Conor Gaston have been added to the bench, with Darren Cave also providing back-up at the expense of Ian Whitten.
The Ulstermen currently occupy second position in the league table, three points ahead of their fourth-placed Irish rivals.
Defeat for either team would be a major setback as both provinces are chasing a play-off spot.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Shane Horgan, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Isaac Boss; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Cian Healy, Mike Ross, Nathan Hines, Sean O’Brien/Dominic Ryan, Eoin Reddan, Ian Madigan, David Kearney.
ULSTER: Adam D’Arcy; Andrew Trimble, Nevin Spence, Paddy Wallace, Craig Gilroy; Ian Humphreys, Ruan Pienaar; Tom Court, Rory Best (capt), BJ Botha, Tim Barker, Dan Tuohy, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Pedrie Wannenburg.
Replacements: Andi Kyriacou, Paddy McAllister, Bryan Young, Neil McComb, Willie Faloon, Paul Marshall, Darren Cave, Conor Gaston.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
Assistant Referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Peter Roche (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinnster to win: 1/4; Draw: 22/1; Ulster to win: 11/4
Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “Ulster have quality across the board. I would expect from them a really good set piece, particularly the lineout. The back row has been really competitive as well.
“Pedrie Wannenburg is a big ball-carrier. He gives them go-forward. He’s difficult to stop.
“Robbie Diack has been good for them, Willie Faloon has been good for them, so the back row will be one of the good battles.
“Through the midfield, with Paddy Wallace there, his experience, his ability as a ball player, as well as Nevin Spence, who is a very good, direct runner, he’s got a very strong fend, a strong upper body – he’s another really promising player.
“Then you’ve Ian Humphreys to run the game and find a fair bit of space, and Ruan Pienaar to run the guys in front of him as well.
“So yeah, I just think we’re up for a massive battle. I think as long as both teams aren’t too battered (from the European games), you might get a really good first 40 or 50!
“Maybe Ulster will tire in the end. I hope they do anyway! I can’t see there being a massive amount between the two teams.”
Brian McLaughlin (Ulster) – “It’s a huge game for both teams in the Magners League. Leinster’s home record is outstanding, so we’re under no illusions about what we’re going into.
“We know them inside out so it’s a matter of us going down there, having the right mindset and making sure that we’re in the right place, which I think we are.
“We did well last weekend (against Northampton). We were very pleased with most aspects of our game. We now know what you have to do when you’re in a Heineken Cup quarter-final.
“Saturday’s game is an interpro and Leinster will want a home semi-final, just like we do. So it’s a blood and guts game, both teams will be going at it hell for leather, I have no doubt about that.”
Top Scorers – 2010/11 Magners League: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 142; Tries: Shane Horgan 5; Ulster – Points: Ruan Pienaar 112; Tries: Craig Gilroy 7
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Wednesday, December 26, 2007 – Leinster 29 Ulster 0, the RDS
Saturday, December 27, 2008 – Ulster 13 Leinster 21, Ravenhill
Sunday, March 29, 2009 – Leinster 32 Ulster 6, the RDS
Saturday, October 24, 2009 – Ulster 16 Leinster 14, Ravenhill
Saturday, December 26, 2009 – Leinster 15 Ulster 3, the RDS
Monday, December 27, 2010 – Ulster 13 Leinster 30, Ravenhill
– Leinster have won five of their last six games against Ulster, while the Ulstermen have not won a game in Dublin since a 26-15 victory over Leinster at Donnybrook in the Interprovincial Championship on August 13, 1999
– Leinster’s only defeat in their last five matches in all competitions was a 24-23 loss at Munster on April 2
– The Leinstermen have won their last 24 regular season games at home in the Magners League
– Ulster have won their last six Magners League matches since going down 23-22 to the Ospreys in February
– The Ulstermen have yet to beat a fellow Irish province this season