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Leinster Rugby vs Connacht Rugby
Pro 14 Round 10
RDS Arena, Dublin
Saturday, 4th January 2020, 17:30

TV: Live on Eir Sports/TG4

It was lucky number thirteen for Leinster as they made it a baker's dozen of wins last weekend in Limerick.

Leinster played the conditions smartly to earn a decent lead in the first half when they had the wind in their favour. Then they defended superbly in the second half to hold Munster out and earn a satisfying win. They now face into three more games before a four week break. They have Lyon at home next week and then Benetton away but before that they have the final round of inter-pros against Connacht.

Of all the Irish teams Connacht have had the most miserable Christmas. They were beaten at home by a fairly young Munster side before being hammered by Ulster in Ravenhill last Friday. Injuries have undoubtedly contributed to their problems but truth be told their form hasn't been great for the last couple of months going back to the match where they were thrashed at home by Leinster. Even the last-gasp dramatic win over Gloucester, thrilling as it was, papered over the cracks of another poor game they were well on the way to losing. With Toulouse at home and Montpellier away to come in their final two European pool games their odds on qualifying don't look too good.

Connacht have also dropped down to fourth in Conference B in the league so coach Andy Friend will be anxious to pick up some points soon. He's named a team with second row Niall Murray making his first start for Connacht alongside Gavin Thornbury who has returned from injury. In the front row, loosehead prop Denis Buckley comes in alongside hooker Shane Delahunt and tighthead Dominic Robertson McCoy. In the backrow, Eoghan Masterson lines up with Paul Boyle and Robin Copeland.

Scrum half Caolin Blade captains the side in the absence of the injured Jarrad Butler and he continues his half back partnership with Conor Fitzgerald who has edged out Jack Carty in recent weeks. Stephen Fitzgerald is named at full back with Niyi Adeolokun and John Porch on the wings. Former Leinster player Tom Daly has impressed in the centre this season and he is paired with the versatile Kyle Godwin.

For Leinster a large number of internationals who didn't play in the last two weeks are back this weekend. Jordan Larmour returns at full-back in a back three with Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney. Joe Tomane returns from injury to partner Garry Ringrose in the centre and Luke McGrath and Ciaran Frawley form a new half-back pairing.

Peter Dooley, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong come in to the front row and Ross Molony and James Ryan are named in the boiler room. In the back row, captain Rhys Ruddock returns at blindside and is joined by Max Deegan and Will Connors who is the only player to have started all three games over the Christmas/New Year period.

Connacht will give it a lash but Leinster will win this one comfortably.

Team Lineups

Leinster Rugby
Connacht Rugby
Teams Jordan Larmour 15 Stephen Fitzgerald
Fergus McFadden 14 Niyi Adeolokun
Garry Ringrose 13 Kyle Godwin
Joe Tomane 12 Tom Daly
Dave Kearney 11 John Porch
Ciaran Frawley 10 Conor Fitzgerald
Luke McGrath 9 Caolin Blade (C)

Peter Dooley 1 Denis Buckley
Sean Cronin 2 Shane Delahunt
Tadhg Furlong 3 Dominic Robertson-McCoy
Ross Molony 4 Niall Murray
James Ryan 5 Gavin Thornbury
Rhys Ruddock (C)
6 Eoghan Masterson
Will Connors 7 Paul Boyle
Max Deegan 8 Robin Copeland

Replacements Bryan Byrne 16 Tom McCartney
Ed Byrne 17 Paddy McAllister
Roman Salanoa 18 Conor Kenny
Ryan Baird 19 Joe Maksymiw
Caelan Doris 20 Sean Masterson
Jamison Gibson-Park 21 Stephen Kerins
Harry Byrne 22 David Horwitz
Cian Kelleher 23 Tiernan O'Halloran

Not Considered
due to Injury
Dan Leavy,
Barry Daly,
Jack Conan,
Vakh Abdaladze,
Rory O'Loughlin,
Ronan Kelleher,
Johnny Sexton

Too long to put together!
Officials Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU),
Assistant referees: George Clancy (IRFU), Keith Allen (SRU),
TMO: Neil Paterson (SRU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2020-01-03