Leinster sit bottom of the pile in the RaboDirect PRO12 after the opening round of matches. But a dose of home comfort at the RDS should help them return to winning ways against the Newport Gwent Dragons tonight.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Friday, September 9
LEINSTER (12th) v NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (8th), the RDS, 7.35pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Wales)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in Friday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at the RDS has been named.
Isa Nacewa, Leinster’s Player of the Year in 2010/11, continues in the back-three alongside Fionn Carr and David Kearney for the visit of the Welsh region.
Cillian Willis will partner Ian Madigan at half-back with Ireland Under-20 international Brendan Macken starting at centre alongside Eoin O’Malley in the absence of Luke Fitzgerald.
The pack is unchanged with the Ireland-capped Rhys Ruddock again leading the side and he continues his back row partnership with Kevin McLaughlin and Dominic Ryan.
Devin Toner locks down with Damian Browne in the second row, with Heinke van der Merwe continuing in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss and Jamie Hagan.
A decision on the final place on the replacements bench will be made closer to kick-off, with Jack O’Connell and new arrival Nathan White in contention.
Over 14,500 tickets have now been sold for Friday’s game and tickets are still on sale online here, from Spar (Donnybrook), the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide. They will also be available to purchase on the gate on match night.
Meanwhile, there have been three changes made to the Dragons squad that lined out at Musgrave Park last time out. Missing out are Ashley Smith (hamstring) and Tom Brown (dead leg), who are being rested.
“It’s purely precautionary,” admitted the region’s head coach Darren Edwards. “We’re at that point of the season where we pretty much have a fully fit squad, so we’re just resting these guys and making sure.”
Potentially making his PRO debut for the Dragons is former Ulster full-back Jamie Smith, who will start on the bench in Dublin.
LEINSTER: Isa Nacewa; Fionn Carr, Brendan Macken, Eoin O’Malley, David Kearney; Ian Madigan, Cillian Willis; Heinke van der Merwe, Richardt Strauss, Jamie Hagan, Damian Browne, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Dominic Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (capt).
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Jack O’Connell/Nathan White, Mark Flanagan, Leo Auva’a, John Cooney, Mat Berquist, Darren Hudson.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Martyn Thomas; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Pat Leach, Mike Poole; Jason Tovey, Joe Bedford; Phil Price, Tom Willis (capt), Ben Castle, Adam Jones, Rob Sidoli, Andrew Coombs, Gavin Thomas, Hugo Ellis.
Replacements: Rhys Buckley, Nathan Williams, Dan Way, Lewis Evans, Jevon Groves, Wayne Evans, Steffan Jones, Jamie Smith.
Referee: Andy Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant Referees: Michael Black, Richard Kerr (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Tony Redmond (Ireland)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/8; Draw: 25/1; Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 9/2
Pre-Match Quotes: Mat Berquist (Leinster) – “It is different (playing) without the experienced guys. In saying that, the young guys bring a lot of enthusiasm.
“I am sure after last weekend’s performance we will right those wrongs and put in a good show.
“(Against the Ospreys) we didn’t get the things right that you need to – in whatever rugby team you’re in. That was the set piece and the ruck. They had a big influence on the game.
“In the first half, we couldn’t get continuity with the ball, turning it over a lot. We were behind the posts a few times. That affects how you can run a game.”
Andrew Coombs (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “It’s not the ideal start, but it’s one we’re looking forward to. I think we’ve taken a lot of confidence from the Munster game and the boys are really confident that we could pick up a win out there.
“I don’t think Leinster would have been too happy with their performance against the Ospreys and they’ll probably want to put things right this weekend, so it’ll be a good game.
“We probably were a bit rusty last weekend, but we’ve been training hard this week to get back to where we were last season. A lot of planning has gone into how to break Leinster down and I think we’ll do well on Friday.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Mat Berquist 3; Tries: -; Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 9; Tries: –
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
Saturday, November 29, 2008 – Leinster 29 Newport Gwent Dragons 13, the RDS
Saturday, May 16, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 18 Leinster 9, Rodney Parade
Saturday, September 12, 2009 – Leinster 23 Newport Gwent Dragons 14, the RDS
Sunday, December 6, 2009 – Newport Gwent Dragons 30 Leinster 14, Rodney Parade
Friday, November 19, 2010 – Leinster 27 Newport Gwent Dragons 6, the RDS
Sunday, March 27, 2011 – Newport Gwent Dragons 16 Leinster 26, Rodney Parade
– Leinster won both encounters last season, whilst the men of Gwent have lost all eight previous matches they have played on Leinster soil
– Leinster have suffered just one bigger defeat in the history of the tournament than their 27-3 reversal at the Ospreys last weekend
– You have to go right the way back to the 2003/04 season to discover the last time that Leinster lost both their opening fixtures of a new season
– The Newport Gwent Dragons tripped up 20-12 at Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12 last Saturday, but have not lost their opening two fixtures in the competition since the 2008/09 season
– The Dragons have won just once in Ireland since October 2004, beating Ulster 16-14 at Ravenhill in September 2008