Preview: Leinster v Connacht

Date published: October 28 2016

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Leinster head coach Leo Cullen had made 10 changes his matchday 23 to take on reigning PRO12 champions Connacht on Saturday.

Isa Nacewa is the only back retained by Cullen, with the Fijian international, who scored a try and four successful kicks in the Champions Cup clash at Montpellier last weekend, moving from the left wing to take up the full-back position.

Adam Byrne makes his first start of the season on the right wing with Barry Daly making his first Leinster start on the left having already made an appearance off the bench in Cardiff. Daly has scored four tries in two games for the Leinster 'A' team over the last two weekends in the British & Irish Cup.

Noel Reid and Rory O'Loughlin come into the centre with Jamison Gibson-Park and Joey Carbery, who was announced in the Ireland squad this week, the half back pairing.

In the pack, there is one change in the front row as Seán Cronin starts at hooker with Cian Healy at loose head and Mike Ross at tight head.

Mick Kearney again starts in the second row but is joined by Ian Nagle this week.

Finally in the back row Seán O'Brien again starts but moves from blind side to open side with his place in the number six jersey taken by Dan Leavy.

Jack Conan makes his first competitive senior appearance of the season from number eight having played with the Leinster 'A' team over the last two weekends. Conan has recovered from an ankle injury picked up in the pre-season game against Gloucester.

Ross Byrne is in line to make his first appearance of the season off the bench. The Academy outhalf made three appearances in total last season.

Meanwhile, Pat Lam has made three changes to his Connacht side that defeated Zebre in Europe five days ago.

Tiernan O’Halloran, who missed out last week through injury, returns to the starting lineup and will take his place at full-back. Cian Kelleher, top try scorer so far this season, shifts to the left wing in a pacey back three completed by Niyi Adeolokun.

In the pack, there are two changes with Dave Heffernan and Conor Carey coming into the front row.

28-year-old lock James Cannon, who signed with the province from Wasps last month, will make his Connacht debut should he feature from the bench tomorrow.

Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, Lam said: "Despite the high number of injuries that we have, we are excited by the challenge and opportunity to be the first Connacht team to win at the RDS.

"Leinster have started the season extremely well and are sitting top of the table so we understand the difficulty of that challenge.  

"Although it has been a short week with the travel back from Italy on Monday, we have mentally prepared very well as we know that a focus on our team roles will give us the best shot at the points on offer."

Form: Leinster's only defeat in the PRO12 this season was 25-33 to Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in round 2. The Leinstermen are unbeaten in their last 18 home games in the PRO12, including a run of 16 successive victories. They have only ever lost twice to a fellow Irish province at the RDS Arena: to Munster in September 2008 and to Ulster in March 2013. Connacht have won their last four matches with the two most recent taking them to the top of pool two in the European Champions Cup. Connacht’s only defeat in their last five encounters with an Irish opponent was 10-18 in Ulster in April. Connacht have won their last two matches against Leinster including last season’s PRO12 final and have never tallied three successive wins against their neighbours since the two first locked horns in 1931, however Connacht have not been victorious in Dublin since a 26-23 win at Donnybrook in the PRO12 in September 2002.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa (c), 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Rory O'Loughlin, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Barry Daly, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Jamison Gibson-Park, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Dan Leavy, 5 Ian Nagle, 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Mike Ross, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Peter Dooley, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Josh van der Flier, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ross Byrne, 23 Rob Kearney

Connacht: 15 Tiernan O’Halloran, 14 Niyi Adeolokun, 13 Peter Robb, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Cian Kelleher, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Sean O’Brien, 5 Andrew Browne, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Conor Carey, 2 Dave Heffernan, 1 JP Cooney
Replacements: 16 Shane Delahunt, 17 Dominic Robertson-McCoy, 18 Finlay Bealham, 19 James Cannon, 20 Eoin McKeon, 21 Caolin Blade, 22 Bundee Aki, 23 Stacey Ili 

Date: Saturday, October 29 
Venue: RDS Arena
Time: 17:15 local (16:15 GMT) 
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland) 
Assistant Referees: Andy Brace, Jonathan Peak (both Ireland) 
TMO: Gareth Simmonds (Wales) 

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