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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Connacht

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Connacht

The first inteprovincial derby of the new RaboDirect PRO12 campaign takes place as the RDS, with Connacht hoping to upset the odds and post their first away win over Leinster in nine years.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, October 8

LEINSTER (3rd) v CONNACHT (4th), the RDS, 5pm (live TG4)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face Connacht in Saturday evening’s RaboDirect PRO12 derby clash at the RDS has been named.

Meanwhile, Kevin McLaughlin returns to the Leinster side after missing the recent victories over the Scarlets and Aironi due to an ankle injury.

The Ireland international starts alongside Leo Auva’a and skipper Rhys Ruddock in the back row. Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss and Jamie Hagan continue in the front row.

At half-back Cillian Willis partners Ian Madigan, who came off the replacements bench to score his third try in five league games in the 26-7 win over Aironi last weekend.

Luke Fitzgerald, who also had a pivotal role in that comeback victory, continues his centre partnership with Eoin O’Malley, while Fionn Carr, David Kearney and Isa Nacewa complete the back-line.

Saturday’s interprovincial derby has been themed ‘Kids Takeover’ with a family fun evening in store which will see young Leinster supporters from across the province take on the running of the matchday activities.

Young boys and girls will be involved in a range of tasks on the night including announcing the teams to the stadium, delivering the match ball and some will even be turned into mini sports reporters as they conduct interviews with the squad.

A family of four can attend the game for just €;65 (family ticket). Over 15,100 tickets have already been sold and tickets are still on sale online here and from the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Spar (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Eric Elwood has announced his team and replacements to take on Leinster in this weekend’s interprovincial encounter.

There are just three changes to the starting line-up from last weekend’s bonus point loss to the Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium.

Mark McCrea replaces the injured Tiernan O’Halloran on the right wing. McCrea, who previously played for Ulster, has featured in three of Connacht’s five league matches so far, scoring a decisive try against the Scarlets last month.

Ethienne Reynecke makes way for Adrian Flavin in the front row. Flavin joined Connacht in 2006 from London Irish and has earned 108 caps for the province as well as representing Ireland at Under-19, Under-21 and ‘A’ levels.

The final change sees Ray Ofisa come back in at number 8. With 94 caps for Connacht, the Samoan back rower has been a near permanent fixture in the westerners’ team since joining in 2007.

Meanwhile, the Connacht Rugby Supporters Club are running a bus from Galway to the RDS for the 5pm kick-off on Saturday. The bus will leave Busker Brownes at 12.30pm and return 30 minutes after the final whistle.

The package costs €;45 (€;30 match ticket). To book your place, please email mfallon@cbirfu.com or call the Connacht Branch Office on tel: (091) 561568.

LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Fionn Carr, Eoin O’Malley, Luke Fitzgerald, David Kearney; Ian Madigan, Cillian Willis; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Jamie Hagan, Steven Sykes, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Leo Auva’a.

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Nathan White, Damian Browne, Dominic Ryan, John Cooney, Brendan Macken, Darren Hudson.

CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy (capt); Mark McCrea, Eoin Griffin, Henry Fa’afili, Brian Tuohy; Niall O’Connor, Frank Murphy; Brett Wilkinson, Adrian Flavin, Dylan Rogers, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon, Johnny O’Connor, Ray Ofisa.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Ronan Loughney, Rodney Ah You, David Gannon, Thomas Anderson, Paul O’Donohoe, Matthew Jarvis, David McSharry.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon   (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey, Mark Patton  (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/12; Draw: 33/1; Connacht to win: 11/2

Pre-Match Quotes: Joe Schmidt (Leinster) – “It’s a huge local derby with Connacht being just down the road in Galway. A lot of our players have played there and a lot of their players have played a bit here.

“The players know each other pretty well, they’re like brothers. They’re best of buddies except on the field.

“We certainly need to start better than we did (against Aironi) last Saturday. We can’t afford to give Connacht so much latitude and not expect to get a loss on the board.

“I think we were a little bit unlucky that Isa (Nacewa) had an off day with the boot but you’ve just got to go back and get another few tries and thankfully that’s what we did in the second half.

“Connacht will come here with confidence, they got a losing bonus point at the Ospreys which is a lot better than we did, and they’ve really been very difficult to beat so far this season. It’s winner takes all, winner stays in the top four and the other one will probably drop out.”

Eric Elwood (Connacht) – “It would be naive to think Leinster will not have done their homework on us, and they will not take any chances. However it is an opportunity for us (with their players away on World Cup duty).

“It will be tough battle but it has the makings of a good game. We feel that if we play our brand of rugby and take more scoring opportunities, then we have a good chance to win.

“Leinster are a terrific brand, they are well-supported, they are the European champions and derby matches are always exciting.

“The RDS is a nice place to play rugby and if anything it spurs you on playing in front of a bgd crowd, and no doubt we’ll have a bit of extra support for Connacht there this time.”

Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 56; Tries: Ian Madigan 3; Connacht – Points: Niall O’Connor 25; Tries: Gavin Duffy 3


Sunday, October 5, 2008 – Connacht 19 Leinster 18, the Sportsground
Friday, January 2, 2009 – Leinster 26 Connacht 18, the RDS
Saturday, March 27, 2010 – Leinster 17 Connacht 14, the RDS
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 – Connacht 27 Leinster 13, the Sportsground
Saturday, October 23, 2010 – Connacht 6 Leinster 18, the Sportsground
Saturday, January 1, 2011 – Leinster 30 Connacht 8, the RDS


– Leinster have won three of their last four games in the RaboDirect PRO12. They have lost just once at home to a fellow Irish province since 2005, going down 18-0 to Munster at the RDS in September 2008

– Connacht’s last four matches have all been won by the home side on the day. Connacht have won just once on the road in the league since September 2010, earning an 11-9 victory in Treviso on September 3

– Connacht’s only win in their last 15 clashes with a fellow Irish province was a 27-13 triumph over Leinster in Galway in April 2010

– Connacht have beaten Leinster on four occasions in the history of the league, but just one was played in the city of Dublin. They recorded a 26-23 win at Donnybrook on September 13, 2002