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Preview: Connacht v Leinster

30th December 2011 15:05

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Brett Wilkinson connacht hec

Starting for Connacht: Brett Wilkinson

Mick Kearney will make his first start for Connacht in the New Year's Day clash with Leinster at the Sportsground.

Kearney starts at blindside flanker replacing Dave Gannon who came off with a knee injury on Monday. The 20-year-old academy forward, who stands at 6 foot 5 inches, is a former Mount Temple Comprehensive pupil and has represented Ireland U18, U20 & Irish Colleges. He earned his first cap for Connacht against the Ospreys this season and has appeared 5 times since then.

The other change in the pack sees Adrian Flavin replace Ethienne Reynecke at hooker. With over 117 caps Flavin is one of Connacht's most experienced players and even allowing for Mick Kearney's youth the pack boasts 765 caps between them

There are three changes to the starting backline. Frank Murphy makes way for Paul O'Donohoe at scrumhalf, Brian Tuohy replaces Fetu'u Vainikolo on the wing and Connacht's newest signing Kyle Tonetti takes over from the injured Dave McSharry. Tonetti joined Connacht from Sale Sharks earlier this season and steps in for McSharry who required stitches to his chin following the St Stephens' Day clash with Munster.

Meanwhile, Isa Nacewa starts at full-back in a Leinster side which shows a number of changes from the one which started the 42-13 victory over Ulster on St. Stephen's Day.

Andrew Conway, who successfully came through his first appearance this season on Monday, starts on the left wing with David Kearney on the right wing.

Brendan Macken partners Eoin O'Malley, who will make his 42nd appearance for the province at centre, with Isaac Boss linking up with Ian Madigan at half back.

Leo Cullen leads the team and partners Damian Browne at second row with Jamie Hagan joining fellow Academy graduate Jack McGrath in the front row alongside Richardt Strauss who made his 50thLeinster appearance against Ulster.

Final decisions on the makeup of the back-row, replacement back-row and in the replacement outside back slots will be made closer to kick off.

Form:Connacht's miserable run continued at Munster on St Stephen's Day with an eleventh successive defeat in all competitions. Connacht have not won since they beat Newport Gwent Dragons 17-13 at the Sportsground on 23 September. Conversely Leinster are undefeated in their last dozen encounters in all competitions, since their 19-23 defeat at Glasgow in the RaboDirect PRO12 on 17 September. The Leinstermen have lost just one regular season game to an Irish Interpro rival in the past two seasons. Connacht's only win over Leinster in their last six meetings was 27-13 at the Sportsground on 21 April 2010.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Gavin Duffy (C), 14 Brian Tuohy, 13 Eoin Griffin, 12 Kyle Tonetti, 11 Tiernan O'Halloran, 10 Niall O'Connor, 9 Paul O'Donohoe, 8 John Muldoon, 7 Johnny O'connor, 6 Mick Kearney, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 George Naoupu, 3 Ronan Loughney, 2 Adrian Flavin, 1 Brett Wilkinson
Replacements: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Dylan Rogers, 19 Eoin McKeon, 20 TJ Anderson, 21 Frank Murphy, 22 Matthew Jarvis, 23 Henry Fa'afili.

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 David Kearney, 13 Eoin O'Malley, 12 Brendan Macken, 11 Andrew Conway, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Isaac Boss, 8 Leo Auva'a, 7 Kevin McLaughlin/Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Damian Browne, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Sean Cronin, 17 Heinke van der Merwe, 18 Nathan White, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Shane Jennings/Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Noel Reid/Fionn Carr, 23 Luke Fitzgerald.

Date: Sunday, January 1
Venue: The Sportsground
Kick-off: 17.00 GMT
Referee: John Lacey

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Pool 2
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PosTeamPPts
1Harlequins28
2Leinster28
3Wasps22
4Castres21