Leinster are back on home soil and have some welcome additions in the form of four British & Irish Lions, as they look to bounce back from going down to Glasgow Warriors in the last round.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 27
LEINSTER (5th) v CARDIFF BLUES (7th), the RDS, 7.35pm (live TG4/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Cardiff Blues in Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at the RDS has been named.
Brian O’Driscoll has been named at outside centre for the visit of the Welsh side. He will make his 174th Leinster appearance in a side which includes three fellow 2013 Lions in Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip and Rob Kearney.
In a further boost, Ireland back Fergus McFadden and second row Quinn Roux have recovered from their respective injuries to take their places in the starting line-up.
Ian Madigan starts at out-half and will partner fellow Ireland international Isaac Boss at half-back, with Noel Reid joining O’Driscoll in the centre.
Heaslip, who will make his 167th appearance in Leinster colours, is named in the back row alongside Rhys Ruddock (earning his 62nd cap) and Dominic Ryan (his 49th).
Ireland prop Mike Ross has been included on the replacements bench alongside the likes of Jimmy Gopperth and Jordi Murphy.
Over 15,800 tickets have now been sold for Friday’s game. Tickets are still on sale from www.leinsterrugby.ie, Spar Donnybrook as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
There will also be Ticketmaster booths open from 5.30pm on Friday on Anglesea Road and Simmonscourt Road.
Meanwhile, 2013 Lions captain Sam Warburton will make his first appearance of the season for the Cardiff Blues after recovering from injury ahead of schedule.
The fit-again flanker is one of five changes to the Blues team for the fixture against current RaboDirect PRO12 champions Leinster in Dublin.
Harry Robinson returns to the left wing, while Lloyd Williams is recalled from the bench and is paired at half-back with Rhys Patchell, who remains in the top five points scorers in this season’s PRO12.
A new-look pack sees skipper Matthew Rees return to the starting line-up with prop Sam Hobbs making his first start this season at loosehead.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Noel Reid, David Kearney; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Tom Denton, Jordi Murphy, John Cooney, Jimmy Gopperth, Brendan Macken.
CARDIFF BLUES: Leigh Halfpenny; Alex Cuthbert, Owen Williams, Dafydd Hewitt, Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lloyd Williams; Sam Hobbs, Matthew Rees (capt), Taufa’ao Filise, Lou Reed, Filo Paulo, Josh Navidi, Sam Warburton, Andries Pretorius.
Replacements: Kristian Dacey, Thomas Davies, Scott Andrews, James Down, Robin Copeland, Lewis Jones, Gareth Davies, Cory Allen.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Mark Patton, Barrie O’Connell (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Alan Rogan (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/20; Draw: 35/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 10/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Matt O’Connor (Leinster) – “Friday night is more about us really, it’s about fixing the things that went wrong against Glasgow and putting in a performance that meets the standard we set.
“There were a little bit of detail issues that we didn’t get right in the early part of that game (last week) that put us under pressure.
“They are a good side, Glasgow, they haven’t conceded a try and they will be there or there abouts by the end of the season I reckon so we’re not overly disappointed by the result, just the performance really.
“It’s not the end of the world. We’re pretty realistic about it. I didn’t have to drive the message too hard with the players because they were pretty unhappy with the performance themselves.
“They’re a pretty experienced bunch and understand what it means to wear the shirt and the responsibility that goes with that. So there didn’t have to be a lot of screaming and shouting from the coaches’ end.
“They were disappointed. They arrived Monday with a sharpened focus to be much better than we were in Glasgow – disappointed by the performance, not necessarily by the result and hopefully we’ll see the reaction to that this week.”
Phil Davies (Cardiff Blues) – “We have made a few changes and we are looking forward to it – it’s a great challenge for us.
“We’re playing the champions in their own backyard. That is a pretty big challenge and we are looking forward to it. We’re a proud bunch of players and we want to go out and perform in Ireland.
“We will put a lot of emotion into the performance and also some control and skill, which I think we have shown in the first three games.
“What was missing last Friday (against Zebre) was emotion – it won’t be missing this Friday and that is for sure. We’re striving to ultimately be successful and, as everyone knows, setbacks can galvanise and push teams forward.
“We’ve trained well and built on the good work we have done in the last three or four weeks. We have kept the team going forward and looked at areas where we can improve as we go into a pretty uncompromising fixture.”
Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 42; Tries: David Kearney 2; Cardiff Blues – Points: Rhys Patchell 36; Tries: Dafydd Hewitt 1
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, February 8, 2013 – Cardiff Blues 11 Leinster 26, Cardiff Arms Park
– Leinster’s ten-match unbeaten run in all competitions came to a halt in Glasgow last Friday
– The Leinstermen’s only defeat at the RDS in their last 17 encounters since the 2012 final was at the hands of Ulster in March
– Cardiff Blues’ only win in their last five RaboDirect PRO12 fixtures was 21-10 at home to Connacht in round 2
– The Blues’ most recent league win on the road was by a single point against Edinburgh at Murrayfield in February
– Cardiff won two of their four away games against the Irish rrovinces last season
– The Blues have beaten Leinster just once in their last 13 meetings in all competitions since May 2007: 11-3 at Cardiff City Stadium in February 2011. The Welshmen have never won in seven previous visits to the RDS