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Leinster Rugby vs Ulster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 12
RDS Showground, Dublin
Saturday, 31st December 2016, 15:00

Television: Sky Sports 2

Leinster went to Munster on Monday and were well beaten, a fairly predictable outcome given the relative strengths of the two sides. Munster took a punt on naming most of their internationals and it worked but Leinster didn't help themselves with some very poor kicking from hand. They'll be disappointed not to have put in a better performance but they'll move on to their New Year's Eve clash with Ulster determined to get back to winning ways.

It's been an up and down season for the northerners so far. They started the season very well winning their first five league games on the bounce. But then they lost away to Connacht and the form in Europe wasn't great either with a loss in Bordeaux and a fortunate win over Exeter. Further league defeats came against Munster and Edinburgh before they earned a morale-boosting win away to Cardiff.

They they faced Clermont at home and produced their best performance of the season, scoring five tries in a 39-32 win. However even that win was sullied somewhat by Ulster conceding two late tries which gave Clermont two bonus points. Clermont followed up by thumping Ulster the next week which leaves their qualification hopes dangling by a string. Ulster bounced back by beating an injury hit Connacht team the day before Christmas Eve. Ulster are currently in fourth place in the table but they have a game in hand and a win tomorrow would cement their challenge for a top four spot.

Ulster have named a team showing seven changes to the team that beat Connacht. Internationals Paddy Jackson, Rory Best, Iain Henderson and Luke Marshall are all rested so Rob Herring comes in at hooker to captain the team. Franco van der Merwe and Sean Reidy also come in to start in the pack. In the backs Andrew Trimble is fit to start on the right wing and Tommy Bowe comes in on the left wing. Darren Cave comes in at outside centre alongside the in-form Stuart McCloskey. Ruan Pienaar moves to number ten to allow Paul Marshall start at scrum-half. Charles Piutau at full back will hope to wreak the same havoc he did while wearing a Wasps jersey against Leinster last season.

Leo Cullen is able to name most of his internationals but Johnny Sexton still isn't quite fit to return so Ross Byrne retains the number ten jersey despite a mixed display down in Thomond Park. Byrne is the only player to retain the same jersey from Monday as Leo Cullen makes 12 personnel changes plus two positional switches. He's able to pick most of his internationals so there's a whole new pack with Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent starting in the front row. Devin Toner and Hayden Triggs are in the boiler room and Sean O'Brien, Josh van der Flier and Jamie Heaslip form the back row.

Luke McGrath comes in to partner Byrne at half-back while Garry Ringrose and Noel Reid are the centres. Rory O'Loughlin moves to the left wing while Adam Byrne returns to take the slot on the right with skipper Isa Nacewa moving to full back.

Ulster's backline looks more dangerous but Leinster's pack are strong enough to ensure they don't get too much ball to work with and they should win this match comfortably enough.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Ulster Rugby
Teams Isa Nacewa (C) 15 Charles Piutau
Adam Byrne 14 Andrew Trimble
Garry Ringrose 13 Darren Cave
Noel Reid 12 Stuart McCloskey
Rory O'Loughlin 11 Tommy Bowe
Ross Byrne 10 Ruan Pienaar
Luke McGrath 9 Paul Marshall

Jack McGrath 1 Andrew Warwick
Sean Cronin 2 Rob Herring (C)
Michael Bent 3 Rodney Ah You
Devin Toner 4 Kieran Treadwell
Hayden Triggs 5 Franco van der Merwe
Sean O'Brien 6 Clive Ross
Josh van der Flier 7 Sean Reidy
Jamie Heaslip 8 Roger Wilson

Replacements Richardt Strauss 16 John Andrew
Andrew Porter 17 Callum Black
Jeremy Loughman 18 Jonny Simpson
Mick Kearney 19 Peter Browne
Jack Conan 20
Chris Henry
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Brett Herron
Tom Daly 22 Louis Ludik
Zane Kirchner 23 Jacob Stockdale

Not Considered
due to Injury
Jordi Murphy,
James Ryan,
Mike Ross,
Ian Fitzpatrick,
Fergus McFadden,
Cathal Marsh,
Dave Kearney,
Johnny Sexton,
Joey Carbery,
Rob Kearney

Stuart Olding
Officials Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 58th competition game),
Assistant Referees: Frank Murphy, Joy Neville (both IRFU),
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU),
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2016-12-30

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