With the pacesetting Ospreys meeting Munster on Saturday, Leinster have a chance to go top of the RaboDirect PRO12 table by beating the Cardiff Blues and extending their unbeaten run to nine matches in the process.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, December 2
LEINSTER (2nd) v CARDIFF BLUES (5th), the RDS, 8.05pm (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.
Leo Cullen leads a side which shows a number of changes to the starting line-up for the 30-20 win over Benetton Treviso last weekend.
Cullen partners Steven Sykes in the second row with Sean O’Brien joining fellow Ireland internationals Shane Jennings and Rhys Ruddock in the back row.
Eoin O’Malley continues at centre alongside Fergus McFadden who had a 100% kicking return in his 15-point haul in Italy.
David Kearney also takes his place alongside Fionn Carr – a try scorer against Benetton Treviso – and the returning Isa Nacewa.
Jonathan Sexton has been named on a strong replacements bench alongside the likes of fellow Ireland internationals Sean Cronin, Rob Kearney and Mike Ross.
Over 16,000 tickets have now been sold for Friday’s game and tickets are still available to purchase online here and from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) and Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.
The Ticketmaster van (Simmonscourt Road) and ticket office (located inside the Anglesea Gate) will also be selling tickets at the RDS from 4pm on Friday.
Meanwhile, the Cardiff Blues will field a much-changed line-up compared to last week’s bonus point victory at home to bottom side Aironi.
Casey Laulala returns at outside centre with Gavin Evans taking the number 12 jersey from Dafydd Hewitt.
Ceri Sweeney will partner Richie Rees at half-back, slotting in for the injured Dan Parks (hand). Chris Czekaj, who has a hamstring strain, is a late withdrawal so Dan Fish starts at full-back.
Ryan Tyrrell replaces Rhys Thomas at hooker, Cory Hill comes in as Paul Tito’s second row partner and former All Black Xavier Rush bolsters the back row. He will start at number 8 with Ma’ama Molitika moving to the blindside.
The Blues travel with a depleted squad as eight of their frontline players have been included in the Wales squad for this weekend’s Test against Australia – Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert, Lloyd Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Bradley Davies and Sam Warburton.
Andries Pretorius (knee), Deiniol Jones (shoulder), Martyn Williams (arm), Gavin Henson (wrist) and Kristian Dacey (shoulder) are also on the region’s injury list.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; David Kearney, Eoin O’Malley, Fergus McFadden, Fionn Carr; Ian Madigan, Isaac Boss; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Nathan White, Leo Cullen (capt), Steven Sykes, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Sean O’Brien.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Mike Ross, Damian Browne, Leo Auva’a, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton, Rob Kearney.
CARDIFF BLUES: Dan Fish; Richard Mustoe, Casey Laulala, Gavin Evans, Tom James; Ceri Sweeney, Richie Rees; John Yapp, Ryan Tyrrell, Taufa’ao Filise, Cory Hill, Paul Tito (capt), Ma’ama Molitika, Josh Navidi, Xavier Rush.
Replacements: Marc Breeze, Nathan Trevett, Sam Hobbs, Macauley Cook, Michael Paterson, Lewis Jones, Gareth Davies, Dafydd Hewitt.
Referee: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Leo Colgan, Peter Roche (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/6; Draw: 22/1; Cardiff Blues to win: 4/1
Pre-Match Quotes: Greg Feek (Leinster) – “The Blues have got some really good New Zealand import players there in terms of Xavier Rush, Paul Tito, Casey Laulala. They will be formidable.
“Defensively they are very good so they are going to put a lot of pressure on us. We are going to have to be very accurate on the finer details, get our set piece ball and provide a platform and be really physically up there.
“In terms of their systems, they will be pretty similar whether they have their internationals there or not. This week is not just about building for the Heineken Cup.
“Cardiff are five points behind us in the league table, but they have a game in hand as well. We want to stay where we are in the competition, right at the business end.”
Justin Burnell (Cardiff Blues) – “It’s a massive game for us and we can’t use the excuse that our best players are off on international duty. We still have a massive responsibility to our supporters, sponsors, to the league and also to ourselves.
“We’ve got Leinster who are the number one team in Europe and a formidable force. I think they have just had some good news, in that they have a couple more players back and if you look at the calibre of players they have got back, there are South Africans and Fijians, so they have a massive wealth of talent.
“That doesn’t faze us. We have to go to places like that and perform in order to become a better team. We are going there with a view that we have to perform and I would be absolutely devastated if we didn’t.
“We have got a fantastic mind set at the moment and we are pulling in that right direction, so we are very excited about the game.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 70; Tries: Ian Madigan 3; Cardiff Blues – Points: Ceri Sweeney 53; Tries: Dafydd Hewitt, Tom James, Casey Laulala 3 each
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, September 6, 2008 – Cardiff Blues 16 Leinster 16, Arms Park
Saturday, January 10, 2009 – Leinster 21 Cardiff Blues 20, the RDS
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
– Leinster are unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions, since their 23-19 reversal at home to Glasgow Warriors in the RaboDirect PRO12 on September 17
– The province’s most recent loss in Dublin to a Welsh side came in the 2010 grand final to the Ospreys
– The Cardiff Blues have won four successive matches in all competitions, whilst their most recent defeat in the RaboDirect PRO12 was at home to Glasgow in round 5
– The Blues have won on two of their last three visits to Ireland
– Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season, whilst the Blues have won just once in Dublin since the region was formed in 2003 (22-18 at Donnybrook in March 2004)