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Ulster Rugby vs Leinster Rugby
Pro Rugby
Kingspan Ravenhill Park, Belfast
Saturday, 6th March 2021, 19:35

TV: Live on Eir Sports

It's the big one, the winner-takes-all match to determine who tops group A and takes their place in the final!!!!

That is the line the poor souls at the Pro Rugby PR department were desperate to be writing this week. Unfortunately Ulster's failure to get a four try bonus point in both of their last two games has opened up a six point lead for Leinster. So Leinster could potentially afford a defeat tomorrow evening and still make the final with wins over Zebre and the Ospreys in their last two games.

Not that Leinster will be travelling north with that cushion in mind. Back in January they were coming off a bad defeat against Connacht and took on an Ulster side with a few notions about themselves. After a poor enough first half the Leinster pack asserted itself in the second half for a bonus point win. And that's generally been the story over the last few years, Ulster play some really nice rugby, score lots of nice tries but ultimately when it comes down to the bigger games, their pack just can't cut it.

To be fair to Ulster, that defeat was their only loss this season in the league. They're out of Europe though so the league is all they have left to focus on. So Dan McFarland will be sending his men out fired up to at least win to make Leinster sweat a little over their last two games. He's named a team showing four changes from last week. After missing most of the season through injury Robert Baloucoune comes in on right wing. He forms a potent back three with Jacob Stockdale and Michael Lowry. Stuart McCloskey and James Hume are the centres and former Leinster duo John Cooney and Ian Madigan are the halves.

In the front row, both Eric O'Sullivan and Tom O'Toole come in to start at prop either side of hooker John Andrew. Alan O'Connor and Kieran Treadwell are in the boiler room. The soon to depart Marcell Coetzee returns from injury to start at eight meaning Nick Timoney switches to blindside. Former Leinster stalwart Jordi Murphy captains the team from openside.

Last week's game was another strange one for Leinster. They had three tries in the bag by the twenty minute mark but then went strangely off the boil to let Glasgow back into the game. When Adam Hastings was shown the red card, Glasgow may have used that as an excuse to capitulate. To their credit, they refused and instead scored two tries with fourteen men to make things decidedly uncomfortable for Leinster in the second half. When Glasgow's discipline let them down again to reduce them to thirteen men, Leinster scored two late tries to put a gloss on the win. But it was far from a great performance and the discipline and defence was poor for the second week running.

So there is plenty to work on as Leo Cullen makes six changes to last week's side including a positional switch. Ross Byrne is back from Ireland duty to replace his brother Harry at out-half. Max O'Reilly comes in at fullback so Jimmy O'Brien moves to outside centre. Ed Byrne and James Tracy come in to start in the front row and Rhys Ruddock starts at blindside flanker in the final change to the starting team. Though he may look undersized for the position, Scott Penny had a stormer there last week and is selected at eight again.

Ulster should really be favourites for this game given how they're able to field much closer to a full strength team than Leinster with only Billy Burns, Iain Henderson and Rob Herring missing. They'll certainly be fired up to avenge the defeat in January, but even with all the unavailable and injured players, you fancy Leinster might just nick this one.

Team Lineups

Ulster Rugby

Leinster Rugby
Teams Michael Lowry 15 Max O'Reilly
Robert Baloucoune 14 Cian Kelleher
James Hume 13 Jimmy O'Brien
Stuart McCloskey 12 Rory O'Loughlin
Jacob Stockdale 11 Dave Kearney
Ian Madigan 10 Ross Byrne
John Cooney 9 Luke McGrath (C)

Eric O'Sullivan 1 Ed Byrne
John Andrew 2 James Tracy
Tom O'Toole 3 Michael Bent
Alan O'Connor 4 Devin Toner
Kieran Treadwell 5 Scott Fardy
Nick Timoney 6 Rhys Ruddock
Jordi Murphy (C) 7 Josh van der Flier
Marcell Coetzee 8 Scott Penny

Replacements Adam McBurney 16 Sean Cronin
Andrew Warwick 17 Peter Dooley
Marty Moore 18 Tom Clarkson
Cormac Izuchukwu 19 Ross Molony
Sean Reidy 20 Josh Murphy
Alby Mathewson 21 Rowan Osborne
Stewart Moore 22 Jamie Osborne
Rob Lyttle 23 Jack Dunne

Not Considered
due to Injury


Vakh Abdaladze,
Conor O'Brien,
Dan Leavy,
Adam Byrne,
Max Deegan,
Tommy O'Brien,
Caelan Doris,
Ciaran Frawley,
Harry Byrne
Officials Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU),
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Robert O'Sullivan (both IRFU),
TMO: Olly Hodges (IRFU)

by Jim O'Connor, © 2021-03-05

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