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Preview: Dragons v Leinster

28th February 2013 12:31

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Shane Jennings Pro12 white kit

Leading Leinster: Shane Jennings

Regular Dragons back row Jevon Groves will play his second game at lock in Friday's Pro12 clash with Leinster at Rodney Parade.

Groves made a positive impact against Zebre last week as he played in the second row after Adam Jones was taken ill.

Head coach Darren Edwards has also put faith in young Jack Dixon, who will create a new centre pairing alongside Pat Leach. They last played side by side away from home against Bath at the Rec. The Men of Gwent have also made a change in the front five with Sam Parry stepping in as hooker. Jonathan Evans starts at scrum-half.

Meanwhile, with a number of players available for selection this week, the Leinster management have made several changes to their starting line up ahead of the trip to Newport.

Twenty-two-year-old Academy prop Jack O'Connell will make his seventh Leinster appearance - and his first start - in a front row which includes Balbriggan's Jamie Hagan and Sean Cronin, who is one of five Ireland internationals to return this week.

O'Connell has featured in the province's last three wins against Cardiff Blues, Treviso and the Scarlets as a replacement.

Fergus McFadden partners the fit again Brendan Macken at centre, with full-back Luke Fitzgerald included in a pacey looking back three alongside Fionn Carr and David Kearney. Meanwhile, Ian Madigan - who makes his 23rd appearance of the season - links up with Eoin Reddan at in the half-back pairing.

Shane Jennings leads the team and starts in a re-jigged back row which includes Dominic Ryan and sees Rhys Ruddock switch to number eight. Mark Flanagan, fresh from his seasonal debut last weekend, locks down alongside his cousin Devin Toner.

After featuring prominently in the recent victories, Jack McGrath takes his place amongst a replacements bench which includes the likes of Leo Cullen and Eoin O'Malley.

Form: Dragons' only loss in their last five fixtures in all competitions was 3-60 at home to Glasgow Warriors in their most recent contest at Rodney Parade. Dragons have won just three of their last eleven home games in the RaboDirect PRO12. The men from Gwent's only victory over an Irish province since September 2011 was 14-3 at home to Connacht on 23 November 2012. Leinster have won their last seven matches in all competitions since their 19-27 defeat in Ulster in the PRO12 on 21 December. The Leinstermen have won six of their last seven encounters against Welsh regions in all competitions. Leinster have won their last five fixtures against Newport Gwent Dragons since Dragons were last victorious on 6 December 2009 at Rodney Parade.

Rugby Union betting odds

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Dan Evans, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Jack Dixon, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Steffan Jones, 9 Jonathan Evans, 8 Phil Price, 7 Sam Parry, 6 Nathan Buck, 5 Ian Nimmo, 4 Jevon Groves, 3 Lewis Evans (c), 2 Nic Cudd, 1 Ieuan Jones.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Dan Way, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Adam Jones, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Tom Prydie, 23 Will Harries.

Leinster: 15 Luke Fitzgerald, 14 Dave Kearney, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Fergus McFadden, 11 Fionn Carr, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings (c), 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Mark Flanagan, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack O'Connell.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Michael Bent, 19 Leo Cullen, 20 Jordi Murphy, 21 John Cooney, 22 Andrew Goodman, 23 Eoin O'Malley.

Date: Friday, March 1
Venue: Rodney Parade
Kick-off: 19.00 GMT
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)

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PosTeamPPts
1Leinster622
2Northampton617
3Castres69
4Ospreys65