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Preview: Leinster v Dragons

08th September 2011 13:10

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Andrew Coombs Newport Gwent Dragons

Staying positive: Andrew Coombs

Leinster have made four changes to their back-line for Friday's RaboDirect PRO12 clash with the Dragons at the RDS.

Cillian Willis partners Ian Madigan at half-back as Mat Berquist and John Cooney drop to the bench. Brendan Macken starts at centre alongside Eoin O'Malley in anews midfield partnership in the absence of Luke Fitzgerald.

The pack is unchanged with Ireland international Rhys Ruddock again leading the side.

A decision on the final place on the replacements bench will be made closer to kick off with new recruit Nathan White bracketed.

Meanwhile, Dragons back row Andrew Coombs is confident as the Welsh side return to Ireland for the second match of the season after losing to Munster last week.

"It's not the ideal start, but it's one we're looking forward to," he said "I think we've taken a lot of confidence from Munster and the boys are really confident that we could pick up a win out there.

"I don't think Leinster would have been too happy with their performance against the Ospreys and they'll probably want to put things right this weekend, so it'll be a good game."

Three changes have been made to the squad that played at Musgrave Park last week. Missing out are Ashley Smith (hamstring) and Tom Brown (dead leg) who are being rested.

"It's purely precautionary," said Head Coach, Darren Edwards, "We're at that point of the season where we pretty much have a full fit squad so we're just resting these guys and making sure."

Making his Dragons PRO12 debut is full-back Jamie Smith, who starts on the bench this Friday.

"We probably were a bit rusty on the weekend," said Coombs, "but we've been training hard this week to get back to where we were last season. A lot of planning has gone into how to break Leinster down and I think we'll do well this weekend."

Form: Leinster won both encounters last season, whilst the Men from Gwent have lost all eight previous matches they have played on Leinster soil. Leinster have suffered just one bigger defeat in the history of the tournament than their 3-27 reversal at Ospreys last weekend, whilst you have to go right the way back to season 2003/04 to discover the last time that Leinster lost both their opening fixtures of a new season. Dragons tripped up 12-20 at Munster in the RaboDirect PRO12 last Saturday, but have not lost their opening two fixtures in the competition since season 2008/09. The Dragons have won just once in Ireland since October 2004: 16-14 at Ulster on 19 September 2008.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Isa Nacewa, 14 Fionn Carr, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Eoin O'Malley, 11 David Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Cillian Willis, 8 Rhys Ruddock (c), 7 Dominic Ryan, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Damian Browne, 3 Jamie Hagan, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack McGrath, 18 Jack O'Connell/ Nathan White, 19 Mark Flanagan, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 John Cooney, 22 Mat Berquist, 23 Darren Hudson.

Dragons: 15 Martyn Thomas, 14 Adam Hughes, 13 Tom Riley, 12 Pat Leach, 11 Mike Poole, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Joe Bedford, 8 Hugo Ellis 7 Gavin Thomas, 6 Andrew Coombs, 5 Rob Sidoli, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Ben Castle, 2 Tom Willis, 1 Phil Price.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Buckley, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Dan Way, 19 Lewis Evans, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Jamie Smith

Date: Friday, September 9
Venue: Royal Dublin Society
Kick-off: 19:35 BST (18:35 GMT)
Referee: Andy Macpherson (SRU)

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