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Leinster Rugby vs Bath Rugby
Heineken Champions Cup, Pool A
Aviva Stadium, Dublin,
Saturday, 15th December 2018, 17:30

TV: Live on BT Sports

Well it turned out to be a grind alright.

A determined performance from Bath combined with some wet and very windy playing conditions made for a tough assignment for Leinster last week. But though they were far from their best, Leinster found a way to win and they should be much better this week for the tough hit-out.

Once again the phenom that is James Ryan led the way for Leinster with another immensely physical performance. Such is his influence now, he's become one of the first names on the Leinster and Ireland teamsheet alongside the likes of Johnny Sexton and Tadhg Furlong. You forget he's still a twenty-two year old in only his second full season of senior rugby. With the forecast not great again this Saturday, Ryan's physicality at close quarters could be needed again.

In fairness to Bath, considering their injuries and their poor recent form, they really turned up last Saturday and the twin open-sides of Francois Louw and Sam Underhill drove Leinster to distraction at the breakdown. This week Leinster will be looking to target the pair with the same ferocity as they targeted Tadhg Beirne last season in the semi-final against the Scarlets.

After Bath's defeat made it only five points from three games, you could have forgiven them for sending over the reserves this week. However they've brought as strong a squad as possible with just two changes to the starting team from last week. Cooper Vuna comes in on the left wing to replace the injured Joe Cokanasiga and Jacques van Rooyen starts at loosehead prop in place of Nathan Catt.

For Leinster there are a number of changes. Jordan Larmour moves to full back in place of Rob Kearney to allow Adam Byrne to start on the right wing. In the centre Rory O'Loughlin replaces Noel Reid at inside centre and Johnny Sexton is fit to lead the team from number 10. There's only one change in the pack with Jack Conan returning to the number eight jersey and Dan Leavy moving to number six in place of Rhys Ruddock.

The weather may turn this into a slug-fest but in the Aviva there's a bit more protection from the wind in comparison to the wide open Recreation Ground. So although it probably won't be too pretty, Leinster should win with something to spare.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Bath Rugby
Teams Jordan Larmour 15 Ruaridh McConnochie
Adam Byrne 14 Semesa Rokoduguni
Garry Ringrose 13 Jackson Willison
Rory O'Loughlin 12 Jamie Roberts
James Lowe 11 Cooper Vuna
Johnny Sexton (C)
10 James Wilson
Luke McGrath 9 Will Chudley

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

Replacements James Tracy
16 Jack Walker
Ed Byrne 17 Nathan Catt
Andrew Porter
18 Max Lahiff
Ross Molony 19 Elliott Stooke
Rhys Ruddock 20
Matt Garvey
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Kahn Fotuali'i
Ross Byrne 22 Alex Davies
Noel Reid 23 Darren Atkins

Not Considered
due to Injury
Will Connors,
Barry Daly,
Fergus McFadden,
Joe Tomane,
Sean O'Brien,
Robbie Henshaw,
Nick McCarthy,
Jack McGrath

Joe Cokanasiga,
Freddie Burns,
Zach Mercer,
Paul Grant,
Tom Homer,
Jonathan Joseph,
Taulupe Faletau,
Rhys Priestland,
Anthony Watson,
Ben Obano
Officials Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France),
Assistant referees: Maxime Chalon (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France),
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2018-12-14