Match Preview: Leinster Rugby vs. Ulster Rugby

Ulster v LeinsterLast week is behind us, there has to be a focused effort on moving forward now.

We could languish in last week and what went wrong, but the easiest explanation is probably that Saracens were a cut above us and played the conditions far better than we did and deservedly head back to Barnet with the five points. As many have been saying, perhaps the Champions’ Cup is beyond us this season as it was last season, but perhaps we should also wait until after the Toulouse double-header before writing off this season as lost.

Instead we power on in the PRO12, our most likely source of silverware if we are to win something, and the tough games keep coming thick and fast as we bounce straight out of Europe into our annual journey down the A1/M1 to Dublin to face Leinster in a game that takes on a lot of extra significance given our respective European misadventures.

While we were struggling against Saracens, Leinster were being comprehensively taken apart by Charles Piutau’s Wasps and then edged out by Bath at the Rec last weekend. If our European hopes have taken a hit, Leinster’s have been picked up and thrown into a wall several times.

Leo Cullen is experiencing first hand just how hard top level management really is. True, he was shorn short of most of his star names during the World Cup which their results reflect, however their dismantling at the hands of Wasps will have dented his confidence considerably, and he and his team will undoubtedly be desperate to get back to form in the PRO12.

They will draw great strength from their improved performance against Bath and with their side starting to gel a bit better with the international players back there should be an improvement this week as they aim to maintain their hold on a top four place. Jonny Sexton is due a good performance while there will have been a lot of work done in midweek on the set piece which fell apart at the Rec.

Leinster are on a good run in the league having only tasted defeat once in their last six Guinness PRO12 matches – a 14-25 defeat at the Scarlets in round four – a run which has seen them jump from ninth in the table all the way up to fourth. They have also only lost once at the RDS Arena in their last 12 games at the venue, a 14-16 defeat to the Newport-Gwent Dragons back in February.

Meanwhile, we have had a much more consistent start to the season – our first seven results of the season result in a form line of WLWLWLW, and if we continue in that form then we should add an L to the end of that column tomorrow as well…

Not that the stats back us up either: even though we did break our away duck against the Dragons last time out we haven’t won two away games in a row since February when we defeated Treviso and Edinburgh in succession. And of course, how could we forget our glorious record in Dublin of just one win in 16 years (March 2013’s 22-18 triumph the exception)?

Even though the RDS is not a place we have been overly successful at over the years, we should travel in relative confidence – this Leinster side is mentally bruised and if we can start strong and take the sting out of the home fans then we should have a very good chance at walking away from Dublin with an unlikely win.

Sure let’s just watch the Wasps tape back and do what they did!

The teams

Leo Cullen has made seven changes from their defeat to Bath with Zane Kirchner making his 50th appearance for his adopted province on the wing. Rob Kearney is back from injury to start at full-back with injured captain Isa Nacewa dropping out, while Luke Fitzgerald moves to the wing at the expense of Dave Kearney with Ian Madigan starting at inside centre. Luke McGrath is also preferred at scrum-half to Eoin Reddan and Isaac Boss. Up front both props change with Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong swapping in for Cian Healy and Mike Ross, while Mike McCarthy has passed his HIA and is named in the second row with the injured Hayden Triggs missing out. In the back row Josh van der Flier gets the start at openside after impressing off the bench last week.

Four changes for Les Kiss and Ulster from last week’s defeat to Saracens as Ruan Pienaar makes his 100th appearance for the province at scrum-half. Peter Nelson is brought into the starting line-up at full-back in place of Louis Ludik as the only change in the backs, while Kyle McCall is rotated back in at loosehead ahead of Callum Black. Iain Henderson shifts to the second row allowing Robbie Diack to come in at blindside flanker along with Sean Reidy who starts at openside flanker in place of Franco van der Merwe and Chris Henry respectively. Andrew Warwick returns from injury to be named on the bench.

 

Leinster Rugby vs. Ulster Rugby

Friday 27th November, 19:35

RDS Arena

Guinness PRO12 – Round 8

 

Live on BBC2 NI and TG4

 

LEINSTER RUGBY

15. Rob Kearney, 14. Zane Kirchner, 13. Ben Te’o, 12. Ian Madigan, 11. Luke Fitzgerald, 10. Jonathan Sexton, 9. Luke McGrath; 1. Jack McGrath, 2. Sean Cronin, 3. Tadhg Furlong, 4. Devin Toner, 5. Mike McCarthy, 6. Rhys Ruddock, 7. Josh van der Flier, 8. Jamie Heaslip (capt.).

Replacements: 16. James Tracy, 17. Peter Dooley, 18. Martin Moore, 19. Ross Molony, 20. Dominic Ryan, 21. Eoin Reddan, 22. Noel Reid, 23. Garry Ringrose.

ULSTER RUGBY

15. Peter Nelson, 14. Andrew Trimble, 13. Darren Cave, 12. Stuart McCloskey, 11. Craig Gilroy, 10. Paddy Jackson, 9. Ruan Pienaar; 1. Kyle McCall, 2. Rory Best (capt.), 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 4. Iain Henderson, 5. Dan Tuohy, 6. Robbie Diack, 7. Sean Reidy, 8. Nick Williams.

Replacements: 16. Rob Herring, 17. Andrew Warwick, 18. Ricky Lutton, 19. Roger Wilson, 20. Chris Henry, 21. Paul Marshall, 22. Ian Humphreys, 23. Louis Ludik.

 

Referee: John Lacey (IRFU, 46th competition game)

Assistant Referees: Andy Brace, Olly Hodges (both IRFU)

Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)

TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)