Despite missing a number of their first choice players, Leinster are quietly confident of making it five victories on the trot when they visit Cardiff Arms Park on Friday night.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, February 8
CARDIFF BLUES (7th) v LEINSTER (3rd), Cardiff Arms Park, 7.30pm
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Cardiff Blues in Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at Cardiff Arms Park has been named.
Leo Cullen leads a team which shows a blend of youth and experience for the trip to the Welsh capital.
Ian Madigan, who is the RaboDirect PRO12’s third top points scorer (91 points) this season, partners Ireland international Isaac Boss at half-back with Andrew Goodman lining up at centre alongside Brendan Macken.
Out wide Andrew Conway is joined in the back-three by Darren Hudson, who makes his eighth senior appearance, and David Kearney who starts at full-back.
Dominic Ryan makes just his third appearance after an injury-interrupted season thus far and he completes an exciting back row alongside Shane Jennings and Jordi Murphy.
Leinster ‘A’ captain Jack McGrath is rewarded with a start in the front row after some impressive form in the British & Irish Cup.
Heinke van der Merwe is part of a replacements bench which includes seven players who are either in, or have come through, the Leinster Academy.
Meanwhile, Wales Under-20 internationals Rhys Patchell and Harry Robinson continue in the Cardiff Blues as the Welsh region look to gain revenge on Leinster.
The Blues were demolished 59-22 when the sides last met in Dublin in October, leaking nine tries to the reigning Heineken Cup champions.
But Phil Davies’ side have strung together two wins in the league, beating the Newport Gwent Dragons at home and then out-half Patchell was a key figure in their 17-6 victory away to Munster last month.
Josh Navidi and Scott Andrews will bolster the Cardiff replacements bench having both been released from Wales’ Six Nations squad for the game.
CARDIFF BLUES: Jason Tovey; Owen Williams, Gavin Evans (capt), Dafydd Hewitt, Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones; Sam Hobbs, Rhys Williams, Taufa’ao Filise, Macauley Cook, James Down, Michael Paterson, Rory Watts-Jones, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Marc Breeze, Nathan Trevett, Scott Andrews, Luke Hamilton, Josh Navidi, Alex Walker, Ceri Sweeney, Richard Smith.
LEINSTER: David Kearney; Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Andrew Goodman, Darren Hudson; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Aaron Dundon, Michael Bent, Leo Cullen (capt), Tom Denton, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: Tom Sexton, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Ben Marshall, Rhys Ruddock, John Cooney, Noel Reid, Fionn Carr.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: Sean Brickell, Martyn Lewis (both Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Cardiff Blues to win: 4/5; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: Evens
Pre-Match Quotes: Isaac Boss (Leinster) – “It’s not (difficult) in terms of getting yourself up for this game. I’ve played at the Arms Park a few times, a lot of guys might not have, it’s a tough place to go.
“We are missing a few lads, but that’s great because it gives other guys opportunities. It’s definitely not tough to get up for, we can’t wait for this game to come around.
“At the end of the day, we’ve had a couple of weeks off, but this is what we do and we enjoy doing it. We’re very keen to get playing again after the training we did last week. We’d rather have a game than doing fitness and stuff like that.
“We have to move on quickly (from missing out on a Heineken Cup quarter-final). The disappointment hasn’t subsided, but we do have to move on.
“We’re still in the hunt for a few trophies and that starts this weekend with Cardiff over there in the PRO12. We’re in a good position in the league. We have fought our way back up.
“But, as you can see, it’s really tight and a loss could push is right back down the table. We’ve really got to go there with a ruthlessness to get points.”
Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues) – “For me, Friday’s game has a bit of pride attached to what we have to deliver. Over in Dublin it was not a good performance.
“The second half was creditable but the first half we got hammered. I didn’t enjoy that. I didn’t enjoy the game or what happened afterwards.
“We have to lay a strong marker down on Friday. We have to put in a massive performance against one of the top squads in Europe.
“It is a great challenge for the team. We want to try and win the game and the next few games so we can keep pushing towards the top four.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 56; Tries: Alex Cuthbert 3; Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 91; Tries: Ian Madigan 5
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Sunday, March 7, 2010 – Cardiff Blues 20 Leinster 29, Cardiff City Stadium
Saturday, September 11, 2010 – Leinster 34 Cardiff Blues 23, the RDS
Saturday, February 19, 2011 – Cardiff Blues 11 Leinster 3, Cardiff City Stadium
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
– The Cardiff Blues have won their last two RaboDirect PRO12 contests against the Dragons and Munster, and have won their last three fixtures at Cardiff Arms Park in all competitions
– The Blues have lost both previous matches against Irish provinces at the Arms Park this season
– Leinster have won four straight games in all competitions since losing 27-19 to table topping Ulster at Ravenhill on December 21
– Leinster’s only defeat to a Welsh region in their last five encounters in all competitions was 19-10 at the Ospreys in the RaboDirect PRO12 on November 4
– Leinster have lost just one of their last twelve clashes with the Blues in all competitions since 2007: 11-3 at Cardiff City Stadium in the league in February 2011