Preview: Leinster v Cardiff Blues

Date published: December 1 2011

Leinster welcome back Sean O'Brien to their line-up that will face Cardiff Blues, with the back-row wearing number eight on Friday.

Leinster welcome back Sean O'Brien to their line-up that will face Cardiff Blues on Friday, with the back-row wearing number eight at the RDS.

Leo Cullen leads the team which shows a number of changes to the side that defeat Treviso. Cullen partners Steven Sykes at second-row with O'Brien joining fellow Ireland internationals Shane Jennings and Rhys Ruddock in the back-row.

Eoin O'Malley continues with Fergus McFadden who completed a 100 per cent kicking record in his 15-point haul last weekend. David Kearney also takes his place alongside Fionn Carr – a scorer in Italy – and the returning Isa Nacewa.

Jonathan Sexton is named on a strong bench alongside the likes of fellow Ireland internationals Sean Cronin, Rob Kearney and Mike Ross.

Meanwhile, the Blues travel to Dublin having won four successive matches in all competitions, whilst their most recent loss in the RaboDirect PRO12 was at home to Glasgow in Round 5.

Cardiff Blues have won on two of their last three visits to Ireland and take on a Leinster side that is unbeaten in their last eight matches in all competitions, their last loss also being against Glasgow Warriors in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 17 September.

Each side won its respective home game when the two teams met last season, whilst the Blues have won just once in Dublin since the region was formed in 2003: 22-18 at Donnybrook on 5 March 2004.

The Blues are without the following eight players, who are in the Wales squad to face Australia: Leigh Halfpenny, Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert, Lloyd Williams, Gethin Jenkins, Scott Andrews, Bradley Davies and Sam Warburton.

“It's a massive game for us and we can't use the excuse that our best players are off on international duty,” said Forwards Coach, Justin Burnell.

“We still have a massive responsibility to our supporters, sponsors, to the league and also to ourselves.

“We've got Leinster who is the number one team in Europe and are a formidable force.

“I think they have just had some good news, in that they have a couple more players back and if you look at the calibre of players they have got back, there are South Africans and Fijians, so they have a massive wealth of talent.

“That doesn't faze us. We have to go to places like that and perform in order to become a better team.

“We are going there with a view that we have to perform and I would be absolutely devastated if we didn't.

“We have got a fantastic mind set at the moment and we are pulling in that right direction, so we are very excited about the game.”

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 David Kearney, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Sean O'Brien, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Steven Sykes, 4 Leo Cullen (capt), 3 Nathan White, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Cian Healy.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Damian Browne, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Jonathan Sexton, 23 Rob Kearney.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Chris Czekaj, 14 Richard Mustoe, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Tom James, 10 Ceri Sweeney, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Xavier Rush, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Maama Molitika, 5 Paul Tito (capt), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Taufaao Filise, 2 Ryan Tyrrell, 1 John Yapp.
Replacements: 16 Marc Breeze, 17 Nathan Trevett, 18 Sam Hobbs, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Michael Paterson, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Dafydd Hewitt.

Date: Friday, December 2
Kick-off: 20:05
Venue: RDS
Referee: Andrew Macpherson (Scotland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan (Ireland), Peter Roche (Ireland)
Television match official: Sean Flannery (Ireland)
Assessor: Tim Aplin (Ireland)