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Ulster Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Guinness Pro12 Round 22
Kingspan Stadium, Belfast,
Saturday, 6th May, 17:15

Live: BBC 2 NI

Well wasn't that an odd game?

Leinster got off to a flyer against Glasgow last week and looked to have the win in the bag. However the strong Glasgow bench inspired a fightback and Glasgow took the lead with ten minutes to go. Leinster steadied the ship and Joey Carbery came on to kick a penalty to put Leinster ahead and then as they defended frantically in the last two minutes...the lights went out! For the first time ever in a Leinster home game in the professional era (it happened away to Dragons years ago) the power failed and we had to wait a nervy twenty minutes before they got the lights back working. The drama still wasn't over as Leinster defended well enough to force a turnover but then replacement prop Jack McGrath made an utter balls of kicking it to touch and was fortunate that Adam Byrne was sharp enough to react and carry the ball out. So it was far from perfect but it extended the winning run in the Pro 12 to 11 games and keeps them top of the table.

For their final regular game of the season, they travel to Ulster, a team whose hopes of the top four were effectively finished last weekend when they lost to the Ospreys. It's been a horrible season for Ulster, marked by inconsistent performances. They failed to get out of their pool in Europe, an entertaining win over Clermont being a rare highlight as they only won two games. They've also lost seven games in the league and drawn one and this has left them with a dead rubber in which their three Lions players Rory Best, Jared Payne and Iain Henderson won't be risked. Things may get better for next season though and their most important signing could well be former Leinster forwards coach Jonno Gibbes. If anyone can get a pack in shape, it's this guy and with a couple of South Africans signed already, plus the likes of a (hopefully) fit Marcell Coetzee, Henderson, Best and young Kieran Treadwell and Kyle McCall, he will have something to work with.

But that's for next season, for now Director of rugby Les Kiss has named his team and includes two players who'll make their final appearance for the province. Ruan Pienaar is named to play his final match before his controversial departure in the summer. Pienaar has always been a class act and he'll be missed. Roger Wilson will start at number eight for the 221st and last time for Ulster. A remarkably durable character, he also had a spell at Northampton and he's one of a small number of players to have played over 300 top-class games. He's flanked in the back row by Robbie Diack and Sean Reidy. They have a young and talented second row of Kieran Treadwell and Alan O'Connor and the front row is made up of Andy Warwick, Rob Herring and Rodney Ah You. As ever with Ulster they can put out an exciting all-international backline with Paddy Jackson, Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall in midfield. Andrew Trimble captains the team from the right wing with Craig Gilroy at full back and Charles Piutau on the left wing. The Kiwi has scored against Leinster in every game he's played against them, but he'll want to improve on his recent performance against Munster where he seemed almost disinterested.

Leinster coach Leo Cullen has made eleven changes to the team that started last week. The Supporter's player of the year Isa Nacewa returns to captain the side from full back and Adam Byrne, who won try of the year, remains on the right wing with Fergus McFadden staying on the left. There's a new midfield combination of Garry Ringrose and Noel Reid. The half-backs are player's player of the year Luke McGrath and young player of the year Joey Carbery. In the pack, props Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong come into the front row alongside the retained James Tracy. Devin Toner and Hayden Triggs come into the second row and Rhys Ruddock and Jack Conan, who was a late withdrawal last week, come into the backrow alongside Josh van der Flier. On the bench Cian Healy is back from suspension and Andrew Porter, who has converted to tighthead prop during the season, should get twenty minutes or so to show how he's progressing.

It's not quite a full strength Leinster side but it's not too far off it. Though it will count for nothing in practical terms, they'll still like to finish ahead of Munster and top the table. Ulster will play on emotion for their two departing heroes and while that may get them so far, Leinster's advantage in the pack, particularly in the scrum should see them win.

Team Lineups

Ulster Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Craig Gilroy 15 Isa Nacewa (C)
Andrew Trimble (C) 14 Adam Byrne
Luke Marshall 13 Garry Ringrose
Stuart McCloskey 12 Noel Reid
Charles Piutau 11 Fergus McFadden
Paddy Jackson 10 Joey Carbery
Ruan Pienaar 9 Luke McGrath

Andy Warwick 1 Jack McGrath
Rob Herring 2 James Tracy
Rodney Ah You 3 Tadhg Furlong
Kieran Treadwell 4 Devin Toner
Alan O'Connor 5 Hayden Triggs
Robbie Diack 6 Rhys Ruddock
Sean Reidy 7 Josh van der Flier
Roger Wilson 8 Jack Conan

Replacements John Andrew 16 Richardt Strauss
Kyle McCall 17 Cian Healy
Wiehahn Herbst 18 Andrew Porter
Chris Henry 19 Ross Molony
Nick Timoney 20
Dan Leavy
Paul Marshall 21 Jamison Gibson-Park
Peter Nelson 22 Ross Byrne
Jacob Stockdale 23 Rory O'Loughlin

Not Considered
Due to Injury
Marcell Coetzee,
Jared Payne,
Tommy Bowe,
Darren Cave,
Rob Lyttle,
Clive Ross,
Lorcan Dow,
Johnny Simpson,
Matthew Rea,
Johnny McPhillips,
Stuart Olding

Jordi Murphy,
James Ryan,
Jeremy Loughman,
Rob Kearney,
Jamie Heaslip,
Dave Kearney,
Sean O'Brien,
Dominic Ryan,
Sean Cronin
Officials Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2017-05-05

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