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Bath Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Heineken Champions Cup, Pool A
The Recreation Ground, Bath,
Saturday, 8th December 2018, 15:15

TV: Live on BT Sports

Leinster resume action in Europe this weekend with a degree of anxiousness.

When they began their European campaign against Wasps it was noticeable how few injuries they had and they put in a masterclass performance. However after the defeat the following week against Toulouse and with the injuries now a lot more numerous the match away to Bath is a more nervy prospect than it might have been.

It's probably just as well they're taking on a Bath team that's badly struggling for form. Bath have won just three games in all competitions all season and coach Todd Blackadder is under pressure. Former Leinster great Girvan Dempsey joined the Bath coaching setup during the summer but he must concerned how long this coaching ticket will last as owner Bruce Craig isn't known for his patience.

Blackadder has named a decent looking team though. Skipper Charlie Ewels starts in the second row alongside former England international Dave Attwood. Nathan Catt and Henry Thomas start either side of Tom Dunn in the front row. Flanker Sam Underhill had a hugely impressive autumn international series for England and he's named alongside Tom Ellis with South African international Francois Louw switching to number eight to complete the back row.

Scrum-half Will Chudley partners James Wilson in the half-backs with fly-half Freddie Burns ruled out of the game with a foot injury. The massively experienced Jamie Roberts returns at inside centre and will be partnered by Jackson Willison. Their two Fijian born England internationals Joe Cokanasiga and Semesa Rokoduguni are named on either wing with Ruaridh McConnochie rounding out the side at full-back.

Leinster's injury concerns have eased somewhat. Injury doubts Jordan Larmour and Dan Leavy are named to start with Rory O'Loughlin and Jack Conan named on the bench. Rob Kearney starts at full back with Larmour on the right wing and James Lowe on the left. In the centre Noel Reid partners Garry Ringrose, while in the half backs Luke McGrath starts at scrum-half with skipper Johnny Sexton returning at ten.

In the front row Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong are named with Devin Toner and James Ryan completing the tight five. In the back row Rhys Ruddock and Josh van der Flier are the flankers while Leavy starts in the unfamiliar position of number eight. On the bench Ed Byrne is in line to make his European debut while Jamison Gibson-Park's inclusion means there is no place for Scott Fardy this week.

Though the Rec is one of the most charming rugby stadiums around, the pitch is a bit of a bog and with rain forecast for most of the day this could turn into a dog-fight. But Leinster's pack are more than able for a dogfight these days and once Leavy and van der Flier can tame Underhill and Louw at the breakdown, then they should have enough to grind out a win.

Team Lineups

Bath Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Ruaridh McConnochie 15 Rob Kearney
Semesa Rokoduguni 14 Jordan Larmour
Jackson Willison 13 Garry Ringrose
Jamie Roberts 12 Noel Reid
Joe Cokanasiga 11 James Lowe
James Wilson 10 Johnny Sexton (C)
Will Chudley 9 Luke McGrath

Nathan Catt 1 Cian Healy
Tom Dunn 2 Sean Cronin
Henry Thomas 3 Tadhg Furlong
Dave Attwood 4 Devin Toner
Charlie Ewels (C) 5 James Ryan
Tom Ellis 6 Rhys Ruddock
Sam Underhill 7 Josh van der Flier
Francois Louw 8 Dan Leavy

Replacements Jack Walker 16 James Tracy
Jacques van Rooyen 17 Ed Byrne
Max Lahiff 18 Andrew Porter
Elliott Stooke 19 Ross Molony
Matt Garvey 20
Jack Conan
Kahn Fotuali'i 21 Jamison Gibson-Park
Cooper Vuna 22 Ross Byrne
Alex Davies 23 Rory O'Loughlin

Not Considered
due to Injury

Will Connors,
Barry Daly,
Fergus McFadden,
Joe Tomane,
Sean O'Brien,
Robbie Henshaw,
Nick McCarthy,
Jack McGrath
Officials Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France),
Assistant Referees: Pierre Brousset (France), Vincent Blasco Baque (France),
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-12-07