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RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Ulster

RaboDirect PRO12 Preview: Leinster v Ulster

The festive rugby fare will kick off at the RDS on Monday evening when current RaboDirect PRO12 leaders Leinster entertain provincial rivals Ulster, with a number of up-and-coming players hoping to impress.

RABODIRECT PRO12: Monday, December 26

LEINSTER (1st) v ULSTER (8th), the RDS, 5.30pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Northern Ireland)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face Ulster in the St. Stephen’s Day RaboDirect PRO12 derby at the RDS has been named.

Gordon D’Arcy starts at inside centre in a starting line-up which shows several changes to the side which defeated Bath in the Heineken Cup.

David Kearney will line out on the right wing after scoring a brace of tries last time out in the league against the Cardiff Blues. He forms a speedy back-three unit with Fionn Carr and Luke Fitzgerald.

Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan link up at half-back, while up front Cian Healy starts in the front row alongside fellow Ireland players Sean Cronin and Mike Ross. Experienced flanker Shane Jennings leads the side.

Monday’s festive clash will be a sell-out and there will be no tickets available to purchase on the day.

Meanwhile, Ulster head coach Brian McLaughlin has handed competitive debuts to five players for the derby match against Leinster at the RDS.

With two games in the space of just four days, McLaughlin has had to make full use of his entire squad over the festive period.

Following Monday’s interprovincial derby in Dublin, Ulster will face provincial opposition again when they host Munster at a sold-out Ravenhill next Friday.

Three debutants will start in the Ulster back-line against Leinster – centres Chris Farrell and Michael Allen, along with full-back Peter Nelson who has been very impressive for the Ulster Ravens in their British & Irish Cup campaign so far this season.

Elsewhere in the backs, Paul Marshall will be partnered at half back by James McKinney, who will make his first start for the province after a brief appearance as a replacement against the Ospreys in September.

Simon Danielli returns to the team and will occupy the left wing berth, with Phoenix Academy winger Chris Cochrane lining out on the other wing.

Up front Callum Black, who arrived in Belfast during the summer from Worcester, will make his senior debut for Ulster at loosehead prop, while Academy player Ali Birch, a mainstay of the Ulster Ravens side, will make his first senior start at openside flanker.

Birch is joined in the back row by Robbie Diack and Neil McComb who, while more used to the second row, will don the number 6 jersey.

Tim Barker and Lewis Stevenson form an experienced second row combination, while Black is joined by stand-in captain Nigel Brady and Adam Macklin in the front row.

On the bench, Niall Annett, James Simpson, Conor Joyce and Stuart Olding are all in line to make their bows for the province if their services are required.

LEINSTER: Luke Fitzgerald; David Kearney, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Fionn Carr; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Mike Ross, Damian Browne, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings (capt), Leo Auva’a.

Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jack McGrath, Jamie Hagan, Steven Sykes, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Eoin O’Malley, Andrew Conway.

ULSTER: Peter Nelson; Chris Cochrane, Michael Allen, Chris Farrell, Simon Danielli; James McKinney, Paul Marshall; Callum Black, Nigel Brady (capt), Adam Macklin, Tim Barker, Lewis Stevenson, Neil McComb, Ali Birch, Robbie Diack.

Replacements: Niall Annett, Jerry Cronin, Tom Court, James Simpson, Conor Joyce, Ian Porter, Stuart Olding, Conor Gaston.

Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)
Assistant Referees: George Clancy, Trevor Collins (both Ireland)
Television Match Official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 1/33; Draw: 40/1; Ulster to win: 12/1

Pre-Match Quotes: Greg Feek (Leinster) – “There were too many good things not to talk about them in the first 60 (minutes) against Bath, a few individual things that were quite brilliant – Luke Fitzgerald and the way he did things, a lot of the stuff the boys did.

“There was one planned move in particular where we went wide and came back that ended up with Jonathan Sexton scoring. There are some really good positives there that Joe (Schmidt) had put in place in terms of attack.

“For me we went a bit high in tackles (in the final quarter). They ended up getting an easy advantage line and that meant they were able to score two or three tries in the last 15 or 20 minutes. That is one aspect we want to address.

“There were seven or eight guys who came on and they were a little disappointed because they were on when it happened.”

Brian McLaughlin (Ulster) – “We’ve picked a very young side and the first thing to emphasise is that with the sharp turnaround that we’ve got for our squad we’re doing something similar to this time last year with these two games.

“Our conditioning staff are very concerned about the four-day turnaround and I have to look after my players with huge games coming up in the future.

“Not that Leinster isn’t a huge game, but we’ve got to use the squad at this time. We’ve been emphasising to them all week about going down there, showing them what you can do and taking your opportunity and making sure that you perform.

“They’re excited about it, they’re relishing the challenge and they’ll turn up and perform and give of their best on the day.”

Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 70; Tries: Ian Madigan 4; Ulster – Points: Ian Humphreys 79; Tries: Darren Cave 3


Sunday, March 29, 2009 – Leinster 32 Ulster 6, the RDS
Saturday, October 24, 2009 – Ulster 16 Leinster 14, Ravenhill
Saturday, December 26, 2009 – Leinster 15 Ulster 3, the RDS
Monday, December 27, 2010 – Ulster 13 Leinster 30, Ravenhill
Saturday, April 16, 2011 – Leinster 34 Ulster 26, the RDS
Friday, May 13, 2011 – Semi-final – Leinster 18 Ulster 3, the RDS


– Table toppers Leinster are unbeaten in their last eleven fixtures in all competitions since Glasgow Warriors lowered their colours at the RDS on September 17

– Leinster’s only defeat in their last five clashes with a fellow Irish province was 19-9 to Munster in last season’s grand final

– Ulster have won their last three games but have not won away from home in the RaboDirect PRO12 since a trip to Aironi on September 10

– The Ulstermen’s most recent victory on the road to a fellow Irish province was in September 2009 against Connacht

– Leinster have won their last four encounters with Ulster, while Ulster have not won on Leinster soil since August 1999 in the Interprovincial Championship