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Preview: Leinster v Connacht

25th October 2013 13:07

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SKY_MOBILE Luke Fitzgerald

Luke Fitzgerald: At 13 for Leinster

Leinster boss Matt O'Connor has made several changes to the team to face Connacht in Saturday's PRO12 clash at the RDS Arena.

The management have opted to freshen things up for the visit of Connacht following the squad's exertions over the last fortnight.

Luke Fitzgerald starts at outside centre in a new midfield partnership alongside Noel Reid for the inter-provincial clash. Fitzgerald will make his 113th appearance for the province and he is joined in the backline by fellow Ireland internationals Ian Madigan and Eoin Reddan who form a new half-back partnership this weekend.

Michael Bent will make his first start this season in a front row which includes Sean Cronin and Jack McGrath, who was called up to the Ireland squad for the November series earlier this week. McGrath is one of two uncapped players in the pack alongside Quinn Roux and the team will again be led by Jamie Heaslip who continues in the back-row alongside Kevin McLaughlin and the in-form Sean O'Brien.

Shane Jennings has recovered from injury to take his place on a strong-looking replacements bench which includes the likes of Isaac Boss, Jimmy Gopperth, Mike McCarthy and South African international Zane Kirchner for the first time since his recent arrival.

There are three changes to the team that defeated Zebre 33 - 6 in last week's Heineken Cup encounter.

Danie Poolman, who was forced to withdraw late this week due to a tight hamstring, is replaced on the right wing by Tiernan O'Halloran. Mayo-man Gavin Duffy returns to full-back, replacing the injured James So'oialo.

Up front, Andrew Browne moves to the bench and makes way for last week's try scorer Mata Fifita at blindside flanker.

On the bench, hooker Dave Heffernan is in line to make his first senior appearance in the number 2 jersey. Utility back Daragh Leader is another addition to the match day squad. The 20-year-old from Galway made his first senior appearance away to Ospreys this time last year.

"Coming up against Leinster at the RDS - it doesn't get much bigger than that. The current Rabo champions, they've been consistently the best team in Europe for the last number of years," coach Pat Lam told the Connacht website.

"They are full of internationals; we know their players will be out to stake a claim ahead of the November series. We know what we're up against.

"But these are the type of games you relish and we can't wait for the challenge. We have trained well on the back of a good win in the Heineken Cup and of course we have a plan to execute in order to give us the best opportunity to beat this team."

Form: Leinster have won three of their last four matches in all competitions, and are unbeaten at the RDS since Ulster were the visitors in March. The Leinstermen were defeated in their only fixture so far with a fellow Irish province this season: 15-19 away to Munster in round 5. Connacht's five game losing run in all tournaments ended with their 33-6 victory against Zebre in Parma in the European Cup. Connacht's most recent away victory in the RaboDirect PRO12 was 32-24 at Edinburgh in April. Connacht have been defeated in their last six contests with fellow Irish provinces and have not beaten an Irish side on their own soil since winning 26-23 against Leinster at Donnybrook in September 2002.

Connacht's only victory in their last six fixtures with Leinster was 34-6 in Galway last September.

Leinster: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Luke Fitzgerald, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jamie Heaslip (capt), 7 Sean O'Brien, 6 Kevin McLaughlin, 5 Quinn Roux, 4 Devin Toner, 3 Michael Bent, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Jack O'Connell, 18 Martin Moore, 19 Mike McCarthy, 20 Shane Jennings, 21 Isaac Boss, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Zane Kirchner

Connacht:15 Gavin Duffy, 14 Tiernan O'Halloran, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Craig Ronaldson, 11 Matt Healy, 10 Dan Parks, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 George Naoupu, 7 Jake Heenan, 6 Mata Fifita, 5 Craig Clarke, 4 Michael Swift (capt), 3 Rodney Ah You, 2 Sean Henry, 1 Brett Wilkinson
Replacements: 16 Dave Heffernan, 17 JP Cooney, 18 Ronan Loughney, 19 Aly Muldowney, 20 Andrew Browne, 21 Paul O'Donohoe, 22 Darragh Leader, 23 Fionn Carr

Date: Saturday 26th October
Venue: RDS Arena
Kick-off: 18:45 (17:45 GMT)
Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)
Assistant referees: Mark Patton, Barrie O'Connell (both IRFU)
TMO: Alan Rogan (IRFU)

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