The hard work may have already been done in guaranteeing a home semi-final, but a much-changed Leinster team will certainly be fired up to end the RaboDirect PRO12’s regular season with an away win over the Dragons.
RABODIRECT PRO12: Saturday, May 5
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS (10th) v LEINSTER (1st), Rodney Parade, 7.30pm (live updates on www.leinsterrugby.ie)
Team News: The Leinster team to face the Newport Gwent Dragons in Saturday night’s RaboDirect PRO12 clash at Rodney Parade has been named.
With the top seed berth secured ahead of next weekend’s RaboDirect PRO12 play-off at the RDS, there is a fresh look to the Leinster squad with opportunity knocking for a number of players who have impressed over the course of the season.
Kevin McLaughlin leads the team and he makes his 72nd provincial appearance after coming on as a replacement in last weekend’s Heineken Cup semi-final victory away to Clermont Auvergne.
Flanker McLaughlin is joined in the back row by Dominic Ryan and Leo Auva’a, who penned a two-year deal with the province earlier this week.
Jack McGrath starts in the front row alongside Ireland hooker Sean Cronin and Nathan White, with Devin Toner named in the second row alongside Damian Browne who makes his 21st appearance of the campaign.
Eoin Reddan links up at half-back with Ian Madigan and Noel Reid will form a youthful centre partnership with Brendan Macken in a back-line which features six recent Leinster Academy graduates.
Should Isa Nacewa feature off the bench, which mixes the youth of Luke McGrath and Jordi Murphy with the experience of Heinke van der Merwe, the match will mark his 100th outing in Leinster colours.
Meanwhile, Wales international Luke Charteris is set to captain the Newport Gwent Dragons for the final time in the round 22 fixture.
It will also mark Charteris’ 100th RaboDirect PRO12 appearance after he was a late withdrawal before the Dragons’ last two games.
Aled Brew is also named in the starting line-up before a summer move abroad and will make his 100th start for the Dragons against the Heineken Cup finalists.
Outside centre Adam Hughes also reaches a landmark for the Dragons as he earns his cap for 50 starts for the Welsh region.
The Dragons have retained 17-year-old Monmouth Boys School pupil Hallam Amos at full-back and he is joined in the matchday squad by fellow 17-year-old Jack Dixon who is named on the bench.
Reserve scrum half Jonathan Evans makes it a trio of teenagers in the squad. Both Evans and Dixon have recently been named in Danny Wilson’s Wales Under-20 squad for next month’s IRB Junior World Championship in South Africa.
Will Harries comes into the side on the right wing in place of Tonderai Chavhanga who had minor knee surgery last week on an injury sustained in the Dragons’ last match against the Ospreys.
Sam Parry is the only other change to the side selected to face the Ospreys as he comes in at hooker for Steve Jones.
NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: Hallam Amos; Will Harries, Adam Hughes, Ashley Smith, Aled Brew; Lewis Robling, Wayne Evans; Nathan Williams, Sam Parry, Nathan Buck, Luke Charteris (capt), Rob Sidoli, Danny Lydiate, Lewis Evans, Toby Faletau.
Replacements: Steve Jones, Phil Price, Dan Way, Jevon Groves, Tom Brown, Jonathan Evans, Pat Leach, Jack Dixon.
LEINSTER: David Kearney; Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Fionn Carr; Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Nathan White, Devin Toner, Damian Browne, Kevin McLaughlin (capt), Dominic Ryan, Leo Auva’a.
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Heinke van der Merwe, Jamie Hagan, Mark Flanagan, Jordi Murphy, Luke McGrath, Isa Nacewa, Darren Hudson.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: James Jones, David Jones (both Wales)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Newport Gwent Dragons to win: 6/5; Draw: 20/1; Leinster to win: 4/6
Pre-Match Quotes: Devin Toner (Leinster) – “Seeing how he (Luke Charteris) has progressed for Wales at the World Cup has spurred me on a little bit. Coming up against a peer who is similar in size is always a big test.
“We’ve shown we can perform away from home. We want to finish the regular season on a high. I also want to put down a marker.
“It (Rodney Parade) is real ‘old school’. The away dressing room is very cramped. It is not the best place to play. It is very hostile. It is not the most glamorous place to play. But, it does test your character.
“Competition for places is massive in the squad. Everyone wants to put their hands up. We have progressed from last year.
“There is confidence in every player that is put out there. You always want to play and you always want to win.”
Luke Charteris (Newport Gwent Dragons) – “I can’t see myself breaking through and going over with a swan dive! But I can honestly say that I am not thinking about it being my last game.
“It’s much more important that we finish on a bit of a high and the confidence that can be gained from that would be vital for the boys in pre-season.
“If they can see they can beat a team of Leinster’s quality then it could really help push them on over the close season.
“I have some fond memories here and it has been the players and the people involved at the Dragons that has kept me here.
“That sometimes gets lost in professional sport. We all want to win and it’s a great regret that we haven’t been more successful, but what I will miss is the day-to-day interaction with the boys.
“I have made a lot of friends through the years and that’s what I’ll look back on with fondness next season, but for now I just want to get that win on Saturday.”
Top Scorers – 2011/12 RaboDirect PRO12: Newport Gwent Dragons – Points: Jason Tovey 133; Tries: Tonderai Chavhanga 5; Leinster – Points: Isa Nacewa 120; Tries: Ian Madigan 7
RECENT LEAGUE MEETINGS:
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
Friday, September 9, 2011 – Leinster 31 Newport Gwent Dragons 10, the RDS
– The Newport Gwent Dragons have slipped to three straight defeats in the RaboDirect PRO12, including two losses in-a-row at Rodney Parade
– The Dragons have never lost three successive home games in the league in the same season
– Leinster are still on target to become the first side since London Wasps in the 2003/04 season to claim a European and domestic double in the same season
– The province have lost just one game since September, going down 23-22 at home to the Ospreys in the RaboDirect PRO12 on March 23
– The Dragons have not beaten Leinster since December 2009 at Rodney Parade