Preview: Leinster v Cardiff Blues

Date published: September 25 2014

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his squad to take on Cardiff Blues in Dublin on Saturday.

Captain Kevin McLaughlin has failed to come through the return to play protocols in time for the game and as a result Isa Nacewa will captain the side from full-back on his first appearance back at the RDS since his return from a coaching position with the Blues in Auckland.

Nacewa also stands to cross the 400-point mark for Leinster on Saturday should he successfully convert any opportunities that come his way from the tee or from play with the Auckland native currently on 399 points for Leinster. Nacewa is in fifth position on the all-time Leinster points scorers list.

Elsewhere there is only one change to the backline that featured in Meggetland last Friday. Fergus McFadden again starts on the left wing but on the right wing UCD club man Garry Ringrose will make his debut for Leinster having been an unused replacement in last week's game against Edinburgh.

The 20-year-old Academy player was a mainstay in Nigel Carolan's Ireland U20 team that competed in last season's Six Nations and World Rugby Championship.

Noel Reid and Ben Te'o get another chance to impress in the centre, while St. Michael's schoolmates Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh are again selected in the half-backs.

There are three changes in the pack announced by Cullen. The aforementioned McLaughlin is ruled out through injury as is Tom Denton who similarly failed to recover in time having gone through the return to play protocols last week.

Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon and Jamie Hagan will form an experienced front-row with Ross Molony coming in for Denton in the second-row and Mike McCarthy beside him. It will be Molony's first start for Leinster having played twice last season and having impressed off the bench last week.

The back-row consists of Dominic Ryan at blindside, Josh van der Flier for his first appearance of the season at openside and Ireland international Jack Conan once again selected at number eight.

Meanwhile, hooker Kristian Dacey returns to the starting line-up for Cardiff Blues.

Dacey has been away with the Welsh set-up throughout pre-season, but now returns to the team as head coach Danny Wilson makes a total of three charges to his side.

Prop Craig Mitchell comes in at tighthead, with Taufa’ao Filise ruled out, to pack down alongside Dacey and loosehead prop Sam Hobbs.

The other change comes in the backline where Owen Jenkins takes the place of Tom James, who misses the trip to Ireland as he recovers from a foot injury.

Cardiff Blues sit at the top of the PRO12 standings after their bonus-point victory over Zebre in the opening round of fixtures.

However, Wilson is under no illusions as to the challenge ahead as his team kick-off a run of four away trips to Irish provinces with the game against a Leinster side smarting from opening day defeat to Edinburgh.

"Leinster get a fantastic home crowd, they are well supported and they get momentum from the backing they enjoy so it should be a great atmosphere," he said.

Form: Leinster suffered a 9-16 reversal in Edinburgh on Friday but have not begun a Guinness PRO12 campaign with successive defeats since 2003/04. The Leinstermen's only loss at the RDS Arena in any competition since March 2013 was 14-16 to the Dragons in the PRO12 last February. Cardiff Blues achieved their second biggest victory in PRO12 history on Sunday in defeating Zebre 61-13, their 11 tries in the match equalling the PRO12 all-time record set by the Ospreys against Treviso in 2014. The Blues only victory in their last 17 encounters against Leinster in all tournaments was 11-3 at Cardiff City Stadium in the PRO12 in February 2011, whilst their only victory in Dublin against Leinster came in March 2004 at Donnybrook.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa (c), 14 Garry Ringrose, 13 Ben Te'o, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Fergus McFadden, 10 Cathal Marsh, 9 Luke McGrath, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Josh van der Flier, 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Ross Molony, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Michael Bent.

Replacements: 16 Bryan Byrne, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Royce Burke-Flynn, 19 Tadhg Beirne, 20 Daniel Leavy, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Cian Kelleher.

Cardiff Blues: 15 Dan Fish, 14 Aled Summerhill, 13 Tom Isaacs, 12 Gavin Evans, 11 Owen Jenkins, 10 Rhys Patchell, 9 Tavis Knoyle, 8 Manoa Vosawai, 7 Josh Navidi (c), 6 Josh Turnbull, 5 James Down, 4 Jarrad Hoeata, 3 Craig Mitchell, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Sam Hobbs.

Replacements: 16 Ethan Lewis, 17 Thomas Davies, 18 Scott Andrews, 19 Lou Reed, 20 Ellis Jenkins, 21 Lewis Jones, 22 Gareth Davies, 23 Garyn Smith.

Date: Saturday, September 12
Venue: RDS, Dublin
Kick-off: 17:15 local (16:15 GMT)
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant Referees: Eddie Hogan-O'Connell (Ireland), Jonathan Peak (Ireland)
TMO: Seamus Flannery (Ireland)

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