The Leinster team to face Connacht in Saturday’s Magners League at the Sportsground (KO: 6.05pm) has been named.
Leo Cullen makes his first start of the season after coming on as a replacement during Leinster’s 25-23 victory over Saracens last weekend and the Newtownmountkennedy man partners Devin Toner, fresh from his call up to the Ireland squad earlier this week, at second row.
Isaac Boss partners Jonathan Sexton at half-back, with Eoin O’Malley lining up at centre with Fergus McFadden in a backline which also includes Shane Horgan, Rob Kearney and Isa Nacewa.
Andrew Conway’s good form, after the Ireland Under-20 wing scored a brace of tries in Leinster’s opening round 33-28 British & Irish Cup win over Newport last Sunday, sees him take his place on a replacements bench which includes the likes of Gordon D’Arcy, Nathan Hines and Eoin Reddan.
Meanwhile, following a successful ‘Hour of Power’ initiative on Friday morning where discount €10 tickets were made available for supporters for one hour, ticket sales for Leinster’s Heineken Cup clash with ASM Clermont Auvergne in the Aviva Stadium on December 18th have already exceeded the 24,000 mark. Visit www.leinsterrugby.ie for details.
15: Rob Kearney
14: Shane Horgan
13: Eoin O’Malley
12: Fergus McFadden
11: Isa Nacewa
10: Jonathan Sexton
9: Isaac Boss
1: Cian Healy
2: Richardt Strauss
3: Mike Ross
4: Leo Cullen
5: Devin Toner
6: Sean O’Brien
7: Shane Jennings
8: Jamie Heaslip CAPTAIN
16: Jason Harris-Wright
17: Heinke van der Merwe
18: Simon Shawe
19: Nathan Hines
20: Dominic Ryan
21: Eoin Reddan
22: Gordon D’Arcy
23: Andrew Conway
REFEREE: George Clancy (IRFU), ASSISTANT REFEREES: Peter Fitzgibbon, Peter Roche (both IRFU), TMO: Sean Flannery (IRFU)
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s interprovincial, Leinster Coach JOE SCHMIDT said that the squad are focused on another massive challenge against Connacht…
ON LAST WEEKEND: “I was pretty happy to get the win because to get an away win in the Heineken Cup, in the pool that we’re in was always going to be a tough task. To have achieved that was a really good step forward.
“But we very quickly turned the page and we have re-focused ourselves on to the Magners League (this week) and Connacht who have made a really good start to the year.
“I saw the quality of the Bayonne team that went there (Sportsground) and were beaten, so Connacht have a fair bit of form about them as well.”
ON SATURDAY’S TEST: “I’m expecting them to really charge at us, particularly some of our exports (who are) there. There are some really good young guys who have gone there and are showing a fair bit of form; the likes of Jamie Hagan, Ian Keatley and Fionn Carr just to name a few.
“I know that they’ll be really motivated. I know that Connacht see themselves as the underdog and they’re always highly motivated for these Leinster matches.”
ON AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT: “I thought that our discipline was pretty good against Saracens, though we did struggle a bit in the last 20 minutes. Having had a good look at the video, we got some pretty tough calls against us in that last 20 minutes, so we have to try and maintain that discipline and improve upon it this week.
“I thought our defence was really good, so I think we’ll be looking to put a few more attacking phases together.”
ON CONNACHT: “They could have, and maybe should have, beaten Ulster in the last Irish match-up that they had. With the quality of the start of the season that Ulster have had it speaks volumes for what Eric (Elwood) has done there and is doing there currently.
“The confidence that they will bring to the game means that that there’s no doubt that they will come very hard (at us) right from the start.”