Preview: Leinster v Connacht

Date published: December 31 2010

Leinster have name Kevin McLaughlin in their starting XV for the first time this season for Saturday's Irish derby with Connacht.

Leinster have name Kevin McLaughlin in their starting line-up for the first time this season for Saturday's Magners League clash with Connacht.

McLaughlin is part of an an all-Ireland back-row alongside Sean O'Brien and Shane Jennings, who leads the side.

Nathan Hines lines up alongside Devin Toner at second row, with Heinke van der Merwe starting in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss and Clint Newland.
Andrew Conway starts on the right wing in a back three which also includes Dave Kearney and Isa Nacewa, with Eoin O'Malley taking his place in the midfield with Fergus McFadden.

Paul O'Donohoe makes his 14thLeinster appearance and links up with Shaun Berne at half-back.
Stephen Keogh joins the likes of Eoin Reddan and Mike Ross on a replacements bench which contains youth and experience.

Meanwhile, Connacht Head Coach, has made a number of changes to his side.

Brett Wilkinson returns from injury and replaces Rob Sweeney in the front row. Wilkinson injured his shoulder playing against Harlequins in the Amlin Challenge Cup at the start of December and the 27 year old prop, who has been capped 106 times for Connacht and played for the Irish Wolfhounds in 2009, will look to return to form.
Hooker Adrian Flavin replaces Sean Cronin, who is being rested as part of the IRFU Player Welfare Management Programme. Flavin, who has played U19, U21 and for Ireland A, has been capped 90 times for Connacht since joining from London Irish in 2006.
Eoin McKeon replaces injured Ezra Taylor at number eight Taylor fractured his hand last weekend against Munster and McKeon, a 19 year old member of the Connacht Academy, will look to build on the impressive form he showed against Samoa back in November and make the most of the opportunity with John Muldoon also ruled out of contention with a fractured forearm.
Miah Nikora has recovered from the illness that ruled him out of last weekend's clash with Munster and the 25 year old out-half from Gisborne, New Zealand is joined on the wing by Brian Tuohy, who scored 2 tries against Edinburgh in November with the versatile Ian Keatley moving to outside centre.
Connacht Academy graduate Eoin Griffin returns after a hand injury sidelined the 20 year old winger during Connacht's game against Edinburgh. Griffin has played for Ireland U19 and U20 and has 5 caps for Connacht.
The side will be captained by Keith Matthews, the 28 year old Limerick born centre is deputising in the absence of the injured John Muldoon for the second game in succession.

Form: Leinster's only defeat in their last seven Magners League matches was 15-19 at Ospreys in round nine. The Leinstermen's record home winning run in the League currently stands at 20 matches (last year's final at the RDS was deemed a neutral venue). Connacht ran current Magners League pacesetters Munster very close on Monday, but have now slipped to five straight defeats in all competitions. Connacht's only away win this season came at Glasgow Warriors on 17 September. Connacht have won two of their last five contests against Leinster, but their only win on Leinster soil in the
Magners League was at Donnybrook on 13 September 2002.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Shaun Berne, 9 PaulO'Donohoe, 8 Sean O'Brien, 7 Shane Jennings (c), 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Clint Newland,2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Tom Sexton, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Ed O'Donoghue, 20 Stephen Keogh 21 Eoin Reddan, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Niall Morris.

Connacht:15 Troy Nathan, 14 Eoin Griffin, 13 Ian Keatley, 12 Keith Matthews (C), 11 Brian Tuohy, 10 Miah Nikora, 9 Cillian Willis, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 Johnny O'Connor, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Michael McCarthy, 4 Michael Swift, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson.
Replacements: 16 Dermot Murphy, 17 Rodney Ah You, 18 Dylan Rogers, 19 Bernie Upton, 20 Shane Conneely, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Niva Ta'auso, 23 Fionn Carr.

Date: Saturday, January 1
Venue: RDS
Kick-off: 17.30 GMT
Referee: John Lacey