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Bristol vs Leinster 'A'
British & Irish Cup Quarter-final
The Memorial Stadium, Bristol,
Sunday, 14th April 2013, 15:00

Leinster's second team face a tough battle in Bristol on Sunday afternoon. The injuries problems of the first team, especially in the backs, have had a knock-on effect on the seconds. They face a Bristol team who seem to have been revitalised by the arrival of former Scotland coach Andy Robinson.

Despite being one of the traditional great English clubs, Bristol have had a pretty tumultuous time of it since rugby went professional. They've had severe financial problems, almost right from the start of the professional era, which has seen them relegated and promoted regularly. Things seemed to have taken a more positive turn for them back in the years from 2005-2008. In this period they were promoted to the Premiership and after just surviving in the first season they did well enough to make the play-offs in their second season losing a semi-final to Leicester.

This qualified them for the Heineken Cup the following season and the highlights were defeating Stade Francais 17-0 at home and doing the double over Harlequins. It wasn't enough to qualify them from their pool however and with the pressure of competing on both fronts, their small squad couldn't maintain their league form and they finished 9th. The next season, the financial problems returned and they were relegated back to the championship after winning only two games. They looked certain to bounce right back the next season but crucially they lost a play-off to Exeter Chiefs. Since then, Exeter have gone from strength to strength while Bristol have stayed in the Championship and mostly in the doldrums.

There could be some light at the end of the tunnel for their long-suffering fans though. The club appointed Robinson in February on a four-year deal, initially alongside coach Liam Middleton, but he left last month. Though his time in Scotland ended badly, Robinson is still a respected figure within the game and it's unlikely he would have signed such a long contract unless he felt the club was going places. They had a poor start to the season but are currently just inside the play-off places in 4th place.

Bristol actually won the British & Irish Cup two years ago. Last season, they used it more as a development tournament and didn't challenge, but this season they seem to be taking it more seriously. They topped their group, which included the Ulster Ravens, winning six from six. They've also won their last two Championship games so will be in a positive frame of mind.

Robinson has named a strong team with several familiar names. Jon Goodridge was a decent full back with Gloucester back in the day and Adrian Jarvis is a former Harlequins and London Irish out-half. Another former Quin and England international, Roy Winters is still trucking away in the second row at the age of 37. There are other notable names on the bench in former Scotland international prop Bruce Douglas and former Leicester scrum-half James Grindal. Iain Grieve captains the team from the back row.

For Leinster coach Girvan Dempsey, it's a question of who he has available. He has named a fairly callow backline with six academy players, full back Fionn Carr being the odd man out. UCD's Andrew Boyle and Sam Coghlan-Murray are on the wings and Clontarf's Colm O'Shea and Noel Reid are in the centre. Former St. Michael's half-backs Cathal Marsh and Luke McGrath renew their partnership.

There is a bit more experience in the pack with the in-form Aaron Dundon and Michael Bent in the front row alongside James Tracy, who returns to his first position of loosehead prop after playing at hooker for much of the season. Tom Denton is back after suspension to partner Mark Flanagan in the second row. Dominic Ryan captains the team from openside and forms a pretty good back row with Ben Marshall and Leo Auva'a.

Ireland's under-20 fly-half Steve Crosbie is on the bench alongside Lansdowne scrum-half Paddy O'Driscoll and Old Belvedere centre Ben Woods. The team could further be strengthened if Rhys Ruddock, who is travelling as cover with the senior squad, is drafted in. Also some subs who have limited involvement in the Wasps game could be called up.

Either way, it's an inexperienced line-up and they'll be up against it. However, it's a great opportunity for some young players to put their hands up for the future and perhaps they could pull off a special result. Hopefully Leinster fans travelling to the UK for the Wasps game will try to attend if possible as the young guys would appreciate the support enormously.

Team Lineups

Bristol Rugby

Leinster 'A'
Teams Jon Goodridge 15 Fionn Carr
George Watkins 14 Andrew Boyle
Fautua Otto 13 Colm O'Shea
Ben Mosses12 Noel Reid
Andy Short 11 Sam Coghlan-Murray
Adrian Jarvis 10 Cathal Marsh
Callum Braley 9 Luke McGrath

Mark Lilley 1 James Tracy
Rhys Lawrence 2 Aaron Dundon
Gaston Cortes 3 Michael Bent
Mariano Sambucetti 4 Tom Denton
Roy Winters 5 Mark Flanagan
Iain Grieve (C)
6 Ben Marshall
James Merriman 7 Dominic Ryan (C)
Mitch Eadie 8 Leo Auva'a

Replacements Ross Johnston 16 Thomas Sexton
Bruce Douglas 17 Martin Moore
Glen Townson 18 Tadhg Beirne
Alafoti Faosiliva 19 David Doyle
James Grindal 20 Paddy O'Driscoll
Tristan Roberts 21 Steve Crosbie
Jack Tovey 22 Ben Woods

by Jim O'Connor, © 2013-04-05