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Preview: Dragons v Leinster

31st October 2013 10:58

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Zane Kirchner Bulls training 2012

Zane Kirchner: First start for Leinster

Leinster boss Matt O'Connor has made 11 changes to his starting XV for Friday's clash against the Dragons at Rodney Parade.

Springbok international Zane Kirchner will make his first start for the province after coming on as a replacement in the win over Connacht last weekend.

Kirchner is named to start at full-back in a back three which includes the fit again Lote Tuqiri and Darragh Fanning. Luke Fitzgerald, one of four Ireland internationals in the starting line-up, continues his midfield partnership with Noel Reid while there are recalls for Jimmy Gopperth and scrum-half John Cooney, who makes his 24th appearance for the province.

Shane Jennings leads the team and the experienced back-rower is named in the back-row alongside Rhys Ruddock and Dominic Ryan, who is set to appear in Leinster colours for the 51st time. Michael Bent switches to loosehead in a front row which also includes Aaron Dundon and Martin Moore who trained with the Ireland squad earlier this week.

The replacements bench includes seven players who have either graduated or are current products of the Leinster Academy including Wexford born tight-head prop Tadhg Furlong who is another product of the Leinster Youths system to progress through the ranks in recent years.

Meanwhile, Dragons director of rugby Lyn Jones has made eight changes to his starting XV this week.

Included in those is outside centre Pat Leach who returns to the Dragons fold after spending almost seven weeks out with an elbow injury. He makes up one half of the centre pairing alongside Ross Wardle. The back five also sees a change in full-back with Hallam Amos moving there from the wing, leaving it to Adam Hughes to tackle the number 11 jersey and Tom Prydie stays on the right wing.

After recovering from concussion Jason Tovey returns to fly-half and Richie Rees keeps his place as scrum-half.

The front row remains the same as last week but the second row is altered with Matthew Screech moving to four and Adam Jones takes over at five. Then the only change in the back row is Netani Talei, who will wear the number eight jersey.

The bench has three changes from last week and is as follows, Hugh Gustafson, Nathan Williams, Francisco Chaparro, Rob Sidoli, Ieuan Jones, Jonathan Evans, Kris Burton, Dan Evans.

Flanker Lewis Evans will put the captain's shirt on to lead the Dragons in this encounter.

Last season's skipper will fill the boots of Andrew Coombs who is currently away with the Welsh squad training for the autumn test series along with Toby Faletau.

Evans is relishing the prospect of facing Leinster on his home turf.

"They always bring a formidable team and we know that a challenge will be coming up this weekend... regardless of what side they put down they are a big threat," he said.

"Their strength and depth in the squad is unbelievable and we have lost our two internationals now and we have had to bring in some of the guys who probably haven't had much game time this year or they have started every game. Whereas they pretty much have a new starting line up with fresh feet."

Form: The Dragons have slipped to back to back defeats in all competitions, but have not lost at Rodney Parade in the RaboDirect PRO12 since Leinster were the visitors in March. Leinster achieved a third successive victory in all competitions on Saturday in narrowly overcoming Connacht at the RDS, having only led for the first time in the game in the 77th minute. The Leinstermen have not been defeated by a Welsh region in 2013, the last side to do so being Ospreys at Liberty Stadium in November 2012. Leinster have won their last six encounters with the Dragons since the Welshmen's last success at Rodney Parade on 6th December 2009.

The teams:

Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Tom Prydie, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ross Wardle, 11 Adam Hughes, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 8 Netani Talei. 7 Lewis Evans (c), 6 Jevon Groves, 5 Matthew Screech, 4 Adam Jones, 3 Dan Way, 2 Sam Parry, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Gustafson, 17 Nathan Williams, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Rob Sidoli, 20 Ieuan Jones, 21 Jonathan Evans, 22 Kris Burton, 23 Dan Evans.

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Darragh Fanning, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Lote Tuqiri, 10 Jimmy Gopperth, 9 John Cooney, 8 Rhys Ruddock, 7 Shane Jennings (c), 6 Dominic Ryan, 5 Tom Denton, 4 Quinn Roux, 3 Martin Moore, 2 Aaron Dundon, 1 Michael Bent.
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Ben Marshall, 20 Leo Auva'a, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Cathal Marsh, 23 Brendan Macken.

Date: Friday, November 1
Kick-off: 19:05
Venue: Rodney Parade
Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Ian Davies, Neil Hennessy

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