Since losing to Connacht last month, Leinster have strung together three successive wins over Munster, Exeter Chiefs and the Scarlets. Next up for Joe Schmidt’s men is a meeting with the Cardiff Blues, who are winless in Dublin since 2004.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, October 27
LEINSTER (5th) v CARDIFF BLUES (7th), the RDS, 6.30pm (live RTÉ Two/S4C)
Team News: David Kearney will make his seasonal debut for Leinster when they entertain the Cardiff Blues in the RaboDirect PRO12 at the RDS on Saturday.
Jonathan Sexton, making his 98th appearance this weekend, is just five points away from passing the 500-point mark in league games. He partners fellow Ireland international Eoin Reddan at half-back.
Gordon D’Arcy links up again with Brian O’Driscoll in the province’s midfield, while Kearney will start his first game of the season after being named on the right wing.
Up front, Devin Toner locks down in the second row alongside captain Leo Cullen and the 21-year-old Jordi Murphy takes over from Shane Jennings at openside flanker, making just his second start at this level.
Hooker Richardt Strauss, who was named in an Ireland squad for the first time this week, returns in the front row alongside international props Cian Healy and Mike Ross.
Fit-again back rower Rhys Ruddock, meanwhile, takes his place in a Leinster senior squad for the first time this season. He is listed as a replacement alongside the likes of Isaac Boss and Sean Cronin.
There will be lots of Halloween activity around the ground on Saturday including a Haunted House, fancy dress competition and a special fireworks display.
Come down in your best Halloween costume to support the team and be in with a chance to win some great prizes on the night. Gates open at 5pm.
Ticket sales for Saturday’s game are approaching the 17,000 mark and tickets are still on sale online here. They are also available to buy from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook) and Spar (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
Meanwhile, Cardiff Blues boss Phil Davies has made a series of alterations to the side that played Toulon in the Heineken Cup last time out.
Dafydd Hewitt starts at outside centre in place of Gavin Evans, who took a knock against the French side, and Jason Tovey takes over from Ceri Sweeney at out-half.
There are also two changes in the pack. Benoit Bourrust, who left the pitch last Sunday with a calf injury, makes way for Scott Andrews at tighthead prop.
Bradley Davies’ second row partner in Dublin will be James Down. He comes in for Lou Reed who drops to the replacements bench.
LEINSTER: Ian Madigan; David Kearney, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Damian Browne, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Brendan Macken, Fionn Carr.
CARDIFF BLUES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Dafydd Hewitt, Jamie Roberts, Tom James; Jason Tovey, Lloyd Williams; Taufa’ao Filise, Marc Breeze, Scott Andrews, Bradley Davies, James Down, Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton, Andries Pretorius (capt).
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Nathan Trevett, Campese Ma’afu, Lou Reed, Robin Copeland, Lewis Jones, Ceri Sweeney, Tom Williams.
Referee: Ian Davies (Wales)
Assistant Referees: David Wilkinson, Olly Hodges (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/14; Draw: 33/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 7/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Sean Cronin (Leinster) – “I know that Cardiff’s results haven’t been great in recent weeks, but they hung in there for long periods against Toulon last Sunday and with a bit of luck might have gotten more from the game.
“From my experience, Cardiff are extremely difficult opponents and I have never known a Cardiff side who’ve come over to Ireland to make up the numbers.
“I would see them this year, given the large turnover in playing staff and new coaching team, to be a lot like where Llanelli were a couple of years back.
“They went back to basics and promoted a lot of local players from within and you can see them now reaping the benefit from that approach.
“Cardiff are a proud and talented side with a wealth of international experience in the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts and Sam Warburton. They’re not just outstanding club players, they have performed consistently on the international stage over a long period of time.
“They’re a typical Welsh side in that they like to move the ball wide with pace and they have great power across their team.
“All that we can do is prepare ourselves mentally and physically. t was a week of grind for us because we know the size of the task facing us this weekend.”
Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues) – “To win a Heineken Cup like Leinster have in the last four years, their strength speaks for itself. They’ve got a pretty multi-faceted team.
“Their kicking game is well established, their set piece and their ability to be direct is well established, as is their wide game. So they’ve got a pretty much all-round game.
“That is what you need, to be as successful as they’ve been in Europe over the last three or four years.
“So, we’ve got a big job on our hands and for me the breakdown is going to be the main area of battle. We’ve got to be red hot both in attack and defence.”
Top Scorers – 2012/13 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Ian Madigan 44; Tries: Brendan Macken 3; Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 25; Tries: Alex Cuthbert 2
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, October 31, 2009 – Leinster 23 Cardiff Blues 6, the RDS
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 Stadum
– Leinster’s only defeat in any competition since the opening weekend of the new season came at Connacht in round 4 of the RaboDirect PRO12
– Leinster’s only loss at the RDS in their last ten regular season PRO12 fixtures was to Ospreys last March
– Cardiff Blues have slipped to back-to-back defeats in the PRO12 to Ulster and Glasgow, but have won both of the away games they have played in the competition so far this season, at Connacht and the Newport Gwent Dragons
– The Blues’ only victory in their last eleven encounters with the Leinstermen in all competitions since 2007 was 11-3 at the Cardiff City Stadium in February 2011.
– The Welsh region’s solitary victory against Leinster in Dublin came at Donnybrook on March 5, 2004