Preview: Connacht v Leinster

03rd Jan 2014, 19:18

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Ex-Connacht: Sean Cronin

Ex-Connacht: Sean Cronin

Leinster boss Matt O'Connor has made ten changes to his starting lineup for Saturday's Pro12 clash with Connacht in Galway.

Leinster boss Matt O'Connor has made ten changes to his starting lineup for Saturday's Pro12 clash with Connacht in Galway.

With Zane Kirchner moving to the right wing from full-back, Dave Kearney moves to the bench with brother Rob taking the number 15 jersey from the South African.

Luke Fitzgerald, who is due to win his 120th cap on Saturday, continues his fine run of form on the left wing.

With 402 Leinster caps between them, back in to the centre come the experienced duo of Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll.

Eoin Reddan starts at scrum-half against his former club, with Ian Madigan beside him at fly-half.

The pack also sees a number of fresh faces from last weekend plus a positional switch in the back row. Man of the Match from the Ulster game, Jordi Murphy is selected at flanker, with captain Jamie Heaslip returning at number eight. Rhys Ruddock is once again selected at 6.

Former Connacht hooker Sean Cronin, who spent three years at the Sportsground before joining Leinster, is also selected to start against his former club. Joining him in the front row will be Martin Moore and Jack McGrath, who earned his 50th cap off the bench against Ulster.

Finally in the second-row Devin Toner and Tom Denton start in place of Leo Cullen and Mike McCarthy. McCarthy is however named amongst the replacements.

Meanwhile, Connacht head coach Pat Lam has handed 21-year-old fly-half Jack Carty his first start.

Carty is one of three changes in an all-Irish qualified backline with an average age of 22 years old. The Athlone-native, who is in his third year of the Connacht Academy, has captained the Connacht Eagles in the British and Irish Cup this season and has featured from the bench in Pro12 games against Benetton Treviso and Munster.

Carty's first of three senior caps came against Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun in September 2012.

Tomorrow night sees 21-year-old scrum-half and this season's top try scorer Kieran Marmion play his 44th consecutive game since his debut in 2012.

Darragh Leader has also been brought up from the Academy and starts at full-back tomorrow night in place of the injured Gavin Duffy. The 20-year-old Galway-man has played in three games this season, starting two on the wing at home against Glasgow Warriors and Scarlets.

The forward pack remains unchanged from last week with local flanker Andrew Browne earning his 100th cap for the province. John Muldoon is once again named at openside while Jake Heenan remains on the injured list. Craig Clarke will captain the side.

There are two changes to the replacements bench with veteran second-row Michael Swift returning from injury. Dublin-born scrum-half Paul O'Donohoe is in line to earn his 50th Connacht cap should he be called upon against his former club.

"With our second and third choice fly-halves out injured, we have decided to bring in young Jack Carty to start," said Lam.

"Jack has been involved with us in training all year and has had some good performances with the Eagles. It is a great boost to his development as a young Irish qualified 10 to play against such quality opposition and I know he is very much looking forward to the test."

Form: Connacht have won only once in the PRO12 since Round One: 14-11 at home to the Dragons on December 21, they are attempting to win back to back games at the Sportsground for the first time since March. Connacht have not beaten a fellow Irish province since the last time that Leinster visited Galway, on September 28 2012. Leinster's only defeat in their last six PRO12 encounters was 6-11 to Edinburgh at Murrayfield in Round 10. The Leinstermen have won just once away to a fellow Irish Province since April 2012: 22-16 at Munster on April 13 2013. Connacht have won just one of their last seven contests with Leinster: 34-6 at The Sportsground on September 28 2012.

The teams:

Connacht: 15 Darragh Leader, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Eoin Griffin, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Jack Carty, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Eoin McKeon, 7 John Muldoon, 6 Andrew Browne, 5 Craig Clarke (c), 4 Mick Kearney, 3 Nathan White, 2 Jason Harris-Wright, 1 Brett Wilkinson
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 Denis Buckley, 18 Rodney Ah You, 19 Michael Swift, 20 George Naoupu, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Dan Parks, 23 Tiernan O'Halloran

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Zane Kirchner, 13 Brian O'Driscoll, 12 Gordon D'Arcy, 11 Luke Fitzgerald, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (c), 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Mike Ross, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Dave Kearney

Date: Saturday, January 4
Kick-off: 19:15 GMT
Venue: Galway Sportsground
Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Leo Colgan, Ollie Hodges (both Ireland)
Citing Commissioner: Denis Templeton (Ireland)
Television match official: Jude Quinn (Ireland)