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RaboDirect PRO12 Semi-Final Preview: Leinster v Ulster

RaboDirect PRO12 Semi-Final Preview: Leinster v Ulster

Ulster were the last team to beat Leinster in a league match at the RDS in March of last year, and they will aim for a repeat of that result when they take on the defending RaboDirect PRO12 champions in a mouth-watering semi-final clash.


LEINSTER (1st) v ULSTER (4th), the RDS, 7pm (live RTÉ Two/BBC 2 Northern Ireland/S4C)

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Team News: The Leinster team to face Ulster in the second of the RaboDirect PRO12 semi-finals at the RDS on Saturday has been named.

Head coach Matt O’Connor has made eight changes in total to the side that started last weekend against Edinburgh and in doing so has selected the same pack – bar Mike McCarthy – that won at Ravenhill a fortnight ago.

As a result out go Jack McGrath, the injured Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross to be replaced by Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Martin Moore.

Devin Toner comes into the second row for Leo Cullen who reverts to the bench, while South African Quinn Roux takes the place of McCarthy.

In the back row, Rhys Ruddock and Shane Jennings replace Sean O’Brien and Jordi Murphy. Jamie Heaslip, who captains the side from number 8, is the only forward to have retained his spot from last week.

Jennings, who scored a try in the recent 22-20 win at Ravenhill, is getting ever closer to his 200th Leinster cap. Saturday’s game will be his 195th appearance for the province.

There is only one change to the backs with Eoin Reddan starting at scrum half having recovered from the shoulder injury that has sidelined him since the Heineken Cup game against Toulon.

Reddan will make his 100th appearance for Leinster on Saturday night. He has four tries to his name since joining from Wasps in 2010.

Speaking ahead of the game, Leinster boss O’Connor said: “We have the utmost respect for the Ulster squad. Already this year we have had two incredibly physical and enthralling games against them.

“Training has gone very well and we are very excited by the challenge that this Ulster team will bring.

“This is where we wanted to be at the start of the year. We are at home in a semi-final having topped the table. Home advantage is crucial but it is up to us now to make sure that this advantage pays off.”

There are a limited number of match tickets still available on www.leinsterrugby.ie/tickets and any remaining tickets will be on sale at the RDS on Saturday from 2.30pm.

Meanwhile, Rory Best and Ruan Pienaar have recovered from injury to be named in the Ulster team for the semi-final showdown with Leinster in Dublin.

The returning Best and Pienaar are two of 11 internationals in the team and two of 13 changes to the side that beat Munster at Thomond Park last weekend.

Craig Gilroy keeps his place at full-back and is joined in the back-three by Tommy Bowe on the right wing and IRUPA Players’ Player of the Year Andrew Trimble on the left.

Jared Payne is selected at outside centre, with Darren Cave starting the match in the number 12 jersey. Paddy Jackson is named at out-half alongside the fit-again Pienaar.

Up front, Callum Black is retained at loosehead prop with Best starting at hooker and Ricky Lutton, who missed the recent Ravenhill game against Leinster with a toe injury, back at tighthead.

Ulster captain Johann Muller starts in the second row and is partnered by Iain Henderson who will wear the number 5 shirt.

Robbie Diack has recovered from the ankle injury that he sustained against Connacht and joins Chris Henry and Roger Wilson in the back row.

Forwards Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Adam Macklin, Dan Tuohy and Sean Doyle are named on the bench alongside backs Paul Marshall, James McKinney and Luke Marshall.

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Quinn Roux, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack McGrath, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen, Sean O’Brien, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Zane Kirchner.

ULSTER: Craig Gilroy; Tommy Bowe, Jared Payne, Darren Cave, Andrew Trimble; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar; Callum Black, Rory Best, Ricky Lutton, Johann Muller (capt), Iain Henderson, Robbie Diack, Chris Henry, Roger Wilson.

Replacements: Rob Herring, Andrew Warwick, Adam Macklin, Dan Tuohy, Sean Doyle, Paul Marshall, James McKinney, Luke Marshall.

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Ian Davies (Wales), Neil Paterson (Scotland)
Television Match Official: Gareth Simmonds (Wales)

Match Odds (Paddy Power): Leinster to win: 4/9; Draw: 22/1; Ulster to win: 7/4

Pre-Match Quotes: Sean O’Brien (Leinster) – “It was good (to play against Edinburgh. I was obviously very pleased to be back and it was good to get back early.

“I wasn’t happy with my performance. I’ve been looking after myself the last four months and protecting myself.

“It’s a different story when you’re involved in a game, it doesn’t matter what training you do, it doesn’t prepare you for getting back involved in the game.

“We want to up the intensity on Saturday. Ulster are going to bring in a massive amount of intensity, we know what they can bring, the quality they have. We’re going to have to be all on the same page this week to get the result.”

Paddy Jackson (Ulster) – “We know we can beat them. It’s just transferring that to the big games and the knockout games which we haven’t done yet.

“I actually like going to the RDS, it’s a good pitch, good atmosphere and it is not too far down the road. Hopefully the weather will hold up and I’m looking forward to getting out there.

“The atmosphere in the final last year was awesome and I don’t imagine it will be much different this weekend, and I just love playing in the big games.

“It’s been a relatively good season for me and I want to finish it on a high and hopefully there are two games left and I’ll put everything into them.

“We left a couple of tries out there against them in the final last year and that killed us, so we need to put away our chances.”

Top Scorers – 2013/14 RaboDirect PRO12: Leinster – Points: Jimmy Gopperth 148; Tries: Noel Reid 7; Ulster – Points: Paddy Jackson 174; Tries: Tommy Bowe, Darren Cave 5 each


Friday, April 20, 2012 – Ulster 8 Leinster 16, Ravenhill
Friday, December 21, 2012 – Ulster 27 Leinster 19, Ravenhill
Saturday, March 30, 2013 – Leinster 18 Ulster 22, the RDS
Saturday, May 25, 2013 – Final – Leinster 24 Ulster 18, the RDS
Saturday, December 28, 2013 – Leinster 19 Ulster 6, the RDS
Friday, May 2, 2014 – Ulster 20 Leinster 22, Ravenhill


– Leinster are playing in a fifth successive home semi-final, while they have not finished outside the top three since the 2003/04 season

– Leinster’s lone defeat in their last 12 RaboDirect PRO12 matches came on a visit to the Ospreys in round 19

– Leinster were the only side to remain undefeated at home in the competition this season, their last PRO12 defeat at the RDS coming at the hands of Ulster on March 30, 2013

– Ulster have reached the play-offs in three of the last four seasons, but their only victory came last season at home to the Scarlets

– The Ulstermen have won just two of their last five PRO12 encounters and have beaten a fellow Irish province on their own soil in four of the last five regular season matches they have played

– Leinster have won their last three matches against Ulster, including last year’s final played at the RDS

– They were also victorious over Ulster in the knockout stages in 2011 at the RDS. Ulster’s only previous victory at the RDS in nine visits came in March 2013