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Leinster squad versus Cardiff Blues…Chris Whitaker’s preview

Guinness PRO12 Editor

3 Mar 2010

The Leinster squad to face the Cardiff Blues in Sunday’s Magners League at Cardiff City Stadium (KO: 4pm) has been named.

Shane Jennings and Eoin Reddan are included for the trip to the Welsh capital on Sunday after their involvement with the Ireland senior team in the victory over England last weekend. Jennings will lead the team on Sunday and is one of six Ireland internationals named amongst the forwards.

Experienced duo Stan Wright and CJ van der Linde join hooker Richardt Strauss, who has impressed of late in the British & Irish Cup alongside the likes of Stephen Keogh and Paul Ryan.

With Shaun Berne, Girvan Dempsey and Isa Nacewa in tow, Leinster can call on a panel which is mixed with youth and experience. Recent debutant Andrew Conway and Ireland Under-20 captain Rhys Ruddock are named in the provisional squad which is expected to be reduced on Friday lunchtime.

Leinster squad to face the Cardiff Blues…

BACKS: Shaun Berne, Andrew Conway, Girvan Dempsey, David Kearney, Simon Keogh, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa, Paul O’Donohoe, Eoin O’Malley, Eoin Reddan

FORWARDS: Trevor Hogan, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh, Ronan McCormack, Kevin McLaughlin, Malcolm O’Kelly, Mike Ross, Rhys Ruddock, Paul Ryan, Richardt Strauss, Devin Toner, CJ van der Linde, Stan Wright

REFEREE: Andy Macpherson (SRU), ASSISTANT REFEREES: Leighton Hodges (WRU), Phil Connett (WRU), TMO: Hugh Watkins (WRU)

Speaking ahead of the province’s inaugural visit to Cardiff City Stadium this weekend, Leinster Manager CHRIS WHITAKER said that the team will approach the game in a positive manner against an in-form Cardiff side…

"Cardiff are a strong force in Welsh rugby and even though they started the season slowly they have managed to pick up some impressive victories, not least their 30-7 win up in Firhill against Glasgow last time out. They are a club with big ambitions and they have strength, power and pace right across their team.

"It will be interesting to see which of their internationals will be available on the one hand, but we know that irrespective of who they select their team will be strong.

"They have a big forward pack. Xavier Rush is an important player for them as is Paul Tito, while their backline combinations are strong and experienced with the likes of Ben Blair and two exciting centres in Casey Laulala and Tom Shanklin. Supplemented by a number of up-and-coming players, they will certainly be a force to be reckoned with as they have found their form recently.

"It’s good that we’re in a position to welcome back some of our international players this week who are really keen to play. We’re pleased, not just with the attitude of those players in training this week, but also with the likes of the Ireland Under-20 players who enjoyed such an impressive win against England, so some of them could also be involved on Sunday.

"The British & Irish Cup has enabled us to play some of our more experienced players such as Shaun Berne, Girvan Dempsey, Mal O’Kelly and Stan Wright as well as giving the younger players a taste of a higher level of rugby. Players will tell you that you can train and train, but it doesn’t mean that you’re going to be match sharp. Thankfully we have managed to give the majority of our squad a run recently, so we’re in reasonably good shape.

"From a Leinster perspective it’s encouraging that we have also been able to blood a few more players from the Academy this year and with the likes of Andy (Conway) making his debut in the Scarlets game, it gives encouragement to the rest of the players.

"From a long-term perspective it can only be good to give these young guys a bit of exposure.

"We will look to approach the game in a positive manner because if you sit back against opponents of Cardiff’s calibre you invite pressure on yourself. In fixtures such as this, though, experience is vital."