Planet Rugby

Preview: Leinster v Ulster

27th December 2013 10:23

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Robbie Diack brushing off a tackler

Ulster captian: Robbie Diack

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor has retained nine of his starting line-up for Saturday's Pro12 visit of Ulster to Dublin and the RDS.

Back in from their pre-Christmas training camp with the Irish squad come Dave Kearney, Mike McCarthy and Sean O'Brien, while Jimmy Gopperth replaces Ian Madigan at fly-half.

Brendan Macken is promoted from the bench to take his place in the centre beside Noel Reid who retains his place at 12, while Rhys Ruddock replaces Kevin McLaughlin.

Zane Kirchner continues at full-back, with Luke Fitzgerald and Isaac Boss also retained at 11 and 9 respectively.

There are no changes in the front-row with Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon and Martin Moore once again selected. Leo Cullen captains the side from the second-row with Mike McCarthy partnering him.

Finally, Jordi Murphy is again named at number eight with Rhys Ruddock and Sean O'Brien completing the back row. O'Brien makes a welcome return from injury and comes in for only his second Pro12 appearance of the season.

Meanwhile, Ulster head coach, Mark Anscombe, has made nine personnel changes and three positional switches to the team that beat Zebre at Ravenhill last weekend.

Six of the seven starting backs are Ireland internationals, with Paul Marshall partnering Paddy Jackson in the half backs, Luke Marshall and Darren Cave starting in midfield and Andrew Trimble and Craig Gilroy selected on the wings.

Ricky Andrew, who played against Zebre at Ravenhill, keeps his place at full-back.

Callum Black makes his 50th appearance for the Province and starts at loosehead, with Rob Herring coming in at hooker and Declan Fitzpatrick selected at tighthead.

Lewis Stevenson wears the number 4 jersey, with Dan Tuohy returning to the second row alongside him.

Robbie Diack is named as captain for the game and moves to blindside, with Sean Doyle continuing at openside and Roger Wilson, who has recovered from injury, coming back in at number eight.

Tom Court, Ruan Pienaar and Jared Payne are named as substitutes alongside Niall Annett, Ricky Lutton, Neil McComb, Mike McComish and Michael Allen.

Form: Leinster have slipped to back to back defeats, against Northampton in the Heineken Cup and Edinburgh in the PRO12. The Leinstermen's solo defeat at the RDS since the 2012 PRO12 final was 18-22 to Ulster in this equivalent fixture last season (played on 30 March), it represents Leinster's only home defeat to a fellow Irish province since 2008. Ulster won a fifth successive game in all competitions with their 13-6 home defeat of Zebre on Friday. Ulster's only loss on the road since September was 9-17 at Scarlets on 2 November. Ulster have won their last three away games in the regular season against fellow Irish provinces. Ulster won both regular season encounters against Leinster in the PRO12 last season, but when they met for a third time in the 2013 Final (for which Ulster as top seeds nominated the RDS as their preferred venue) Leinster gained revenge with a 24-18 triumph. The Ulstermen have won only one of their eight previous visits to the RDS.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Mike Ross, 18 Jack O'Connell, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Madigan, 23 Darragh Fanning.

Ulster: 15 Ricky Andrew, 14 Andrew Trimble, 13 Darren Cave, 12 Luke Marshall, 11 Craig Gilroy, 10 Paddy Jackson, 9 Paul Marshall, 8 Roger Wilson, 7 Sean Doyle, 6 Robbie Diack, 5 Dan Tuohy, 4 Lewis Stevenson, 3 Declan Fitzpatrick, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Callum Black.
Replacements: 16 Niall Annett, 17 Tom Court, 18 Nicky Lutton, 19 Neil McComb, 20 Mike McComish, 21 Ruan Pienaar, 22 Jared Payne, 23 Michael Allen.

Date: Saturday, 28 December
Venue: RDS Dublin
Kick-off: 18:45 GMT
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon, Eddie Hagan-O'Connell (both Ireland)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (Ireland)
TMO: Sean Flannery (Ireland)

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