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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
Pro14 Conference B, Round 11
RDS Arena, Ballsbridge
Saturday, 22nd December 2018, 19:45

TV: Live on Eir Sports

Leinster completed the double over Bath with the minimum of fuss.

Luckily the weather was calm enough in the first half to allow Leinster to build a dominant lead and even if the second half was a scrappy affair in the wind and rain, the job had been done. Leinster now have the group decider against Toulouse to look forward to but before that they have a full round of Christmas derbies, home to Connacht and Ulster with a trip to Munster squeezed in between.

First up on Saturday night is a Connacht side that are on a decent run of form on a five match winning streak. They're currently in third place in Conference A, their best placing since they won the league a couple of years ago. Kieran Keane was just never a good fit at Connacht but Andy Friend's brighter disposition seems to have gone down well so far. He has them playing better rugby and they've been tougher to beat too with their only league defeat by more than a score coming at home to Leinster.

In that match in September, Leinster travelled down with a near full strength team eager to exact revenge for the humiliation the squad suffered in John Muldoon's final game. They duly overwhelmed the home side to the tune of a 20-3 defeat. Connacht will still be smarting from that defeat but they will also travel with confidence as they remember the match last New Year's Day when Leinster were fortunate enough to earn a 21-18 win.

Friend has named a team showing ten changes from last week. Tiernan O'Halloran, Cian Kelleher and Darragh Leader are named in the back three while Kyle Godwin and Tom Farrell are both in form in the centre. Jack Carty and Caolin Blade are the halves. Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney and Finlay Bealham make up a fine front row with Ultan Dillane and Gavin Thornbury in the bolier room. Jarrad Butler captains the team from the blindside with Colby Fainga'a and Paul Boyle alongside him. Ireland international Bundee Aki is named on the bench.

For Leo Cullen it's shuffle time again but no coach in European rugby will be extending him any sympathy given the depth of the strength in his squad. He's opted to mix things up by making twelve personnel changes plus two positional switches from last week. Adam Byrne is the only player to retain his jersey from last week after another impressive outing. He's joined in the back three by Hugo Keenan who gets his third start of the season at full back and Dave Kearney on the left wing. Conor O'Brien starts at inside centre with last week's Man of the Match Rory O'Loughlin moving to the outside channel. Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the starting half backs.

In the pack Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne and Michael Bent form a new front row with former Connacht player Mick Kearney and Scott Fardy behind them in the second row. Rhys Ruddock captains the side from the blindside with Dan Leavy moving across to openside and Caelan Doris is again selected at No. 8.

Connacht have named a pretty strong team and will fancy their chances, but Leinster should hopefully edge a tough one!

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Connacht Rugby
Teams Hugo Keenan 15 Tiernan O'Halloran
Adam Byrne 14 Cian Kelleher
Rory O'Loughlin 13 Kyle Godwin
Conor O'Brien 12 Tom Farrell
Dave Kearney 11 Darragh Leader
Ross Byrne 10 Jack Carty
Jamison Gibson-Park 9 Caolin Blade

Peter Dooley 1 Denis Buckley
Bryan Byrne 2 Tom McCartney
Michael Bent 3 Finlay Bealham
Mick Kearney 4 Ultan Dillane
Scott Fardy 5 Gavin Thornbury
Rhys Ruddock (C)
6 Jarrad Butler (C)
Dan Leavy 7 Colby Fainga'a
Caelan Doris 8 Paul Boyle

Replacements Sean Cronin
16 Shane Delahunt
Ed Byrne 17 Peter McCabe
Andrew Porter
18 Dominic Robertson McCoy
Ross Molony 19 James Cannon
Max Deegan 20
Eoghan Masterson
Hugh O'Sullivan 21 James Mitchell
Ciaran Frawley
22 David Horwitz
Noel Reid 23 Bundee Aki

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

Kieran Marmion,
Craig Ronaldson,
Niyi Adeolokun,
Eoin Griffin,
Peter Robb
Officials Referee: George Clancy (IRFU),
Assistant referees: John Lacey (IRFU), Rob O'Sullivan (IRFU),
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2019-01-04