Oskar is 26 year old Leinster fan and has been going to games since the glory days in Donnybrook circa 1998. Rugby blogging is new to him but he has previously blogged on football and the NFL at the superb secondcityfanatics.com. His best rugby moment is BODs interception and try against Munster in the 2009 Heineken Cup semi-final – the moment Leinster knew they were finally in a final.
Shane Williams. Dan Biggar. Two names that are guaranteed to silence any Leinster fan following the heartache of a last gasp Ospreys victory in last year’s RaboDirect PRO12 Final at the RDS. With the Welsh wizard’s virtuoso performance and the Ospreys flyhalf’s ice cold conversion still fresh in the memory, Leinster head into the 2012/13 season trying to finally win the trophy that has eluded them despite a four year spell of dominating rugby at a European level.
Most of the squad returns for another season – Matt Berqvist moves to Biarritz, Nathan White departs west for Connacht and Brad Thorn returns to Fukuona Sanix Blues of Japan following an impressive loan spell for the grizzled veteran.
There are four main additions to the squad. New Zealand born Michael Bent joins from the Hurricanes to add to Leinster’s prop corps. Bent can play tighthead or loosehead prop and most importantly is Irish qualified. The highly rated lock Tom Denton joins from Leeds to bolster Leinster’s second row options, and is joined by 21 year old South African lock Quinn Roux from Western Province. Joe Schmidt will no doubt be hoping that the addition of these two prospects spurs Devin Toner on to fulfil his potential – with captain Leo Cullen not getting any younger it’s important that the team builds more depth at this position. Utility back Andrew Goodman joins from the Tasman Makos, and will provide cover at outhalf and centre.
The makeup of the Leinster pack is unlikely to change too much this season. In the front row many Leinster fans are looking forward to seeing more of young Jack McGrath who showed real promise last year. In the second row, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will emerge from the pack of young pretenders behind Captain Cullen. Denton is highly rated, Roux is a mountain of a man and Toner is an ever- reliable lineout option, so this battle will be one to watch throughout the season. With Sean O’Brien out for the start of the season with a hip injury, it will be interesting to see if Shane Jennings or the younger Rhys Ruddock will be the main beneficiary.
In the backline, Schmidt’s rotation of Isaac Boss and Eoin Reddan is likely to continue. Ian Madigan was a joy to watch last year, and will split games with Jonny Sexton as required. In the centre I expect we will see more of Eoin O’Malley on his return from injury – Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll are also getting older and Fergus McFadden may be used more often in the back three after starting three tests against the All Blacks at 14. Leinster are stacked with depth at the three quarter positions, with the Kearney brothers, Fionn Carr, Andrew Conway and Isa Nacewa ready to be joined by Luke Fitzgerald in the new year, who will be playing for his future with the team having only signed a one year deal for this season.
It’s going to be an exciting season for Leinster in Europe going for three Heineken cups in a row, but after losing three RaboDirect PRO12 Finals in a row it’s safe to say that all Leinster fans are desperate for a title this season.
Best addition to your side?
I think Tom Denton will be a solid addition at second row – good experience with 60 premiership games under his belt, young and Irish qualified.
Opening Day Prediction
This may sound pessimistic but I think the Scarlets will beat us! We haven’t won an opening day fixture since 2007/08 so I’ll go with tradition continuing followed by another great season.
Overall season prediction for your side?
I think a 3rd Heineken cup will be beyond us as no matter how good we are, three is just unprecedented, but we can hope! On the bright side I do think this is finally the year we will win the PRO12, hopefully beating the Ospreys in the Final – we are due some revenge!
I think Craig Gilroy of Ulster is a good shout for top scorer given Tommy Bowe and Andrew Trimble may be rested a bit in the competition, along with Tim Visser now that he is playing for Scotland.~
Dan Biggar will probably repeat as top points scorer.
I will also make the bold prediction that we might see two Scottish teams in the Play-Offs this season – I like what Edinburgh and Glasgow are doing a lot and there are a few teams in transition this year, particularly the Welsh regions.
Who’s going to win the RaboDirect PRO12?
I’m setting myself up for a fall here, but I will go for Leinster to beat Ulster in the Final.