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Preview: Leinster v Dragons

13th February 2014 12:45

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Zane Kirchner in action for Leinster

Full-back: Zane Kirchner

Following on from last week's bonus-point victory away to Zebre, Leinster coach Matt O'Connor has mixed things up to face the Dragons.

A number of additional players are now at his disposal having been cleared to play by the Irish set-up.

Fergus McFadden, Martin Moore, Sean Cronin and Jack McGrath who all saw game time against Wales in the Six Nations start, while Rhys Ruddock who was part of the extended matchday squad that day, also comes in to the fold.

Leinster, who won the original fixture at Rodney Parade, 23-19, make seven changes in total to the 15 that faced the Italians last weekend.

Zane Kirchner who scored his second try in Leinster colours last weekend continues at full-back. Darragh Fanning switches to the left wing to accommodate McFadden who has now fully recovered from his hand injury and acquitted himself so well against Scotland and Wales.

Brendan Macken and Noel Reid are retained in the centre but there is a new pair at half-back with Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan taking over from John Cooney and Jimmy Gopperth. Gopperth is named amongst the replacements.

Captain Leo Cullen and Mike McCarthy are once again selected in the second row but there is a completely new front row with the aforementioned McGrath, Cronin and Moore selected to start having finished out the game so strongly against the Welsh.

In the back-row there is one change with Rhys Ruddock returning in a straight swap with Kevin McLaughlin. Shane Jennings is again selected at seven with Jordi Murphy continuing at the back of the scrum.

Meanwhile, after the Dragons home game at Rodney Parade was cancelled last weekend because of a waterlogged pitch, the region are ready to take on this battle away from home at the RDS.

"Leinster are a very well organized team and are currently doing well in the league. So going over there will be difficult for us," said head coach Darren Edwards.

"When we beat Glasgow away I thought that for us was a major stepping stone, we opposed Glasgow's game on them and actually won that battle. Now we know a formula that does work, it's just about making sure we keep attacking that.

"We play a certain style here and it works really well, so we do get results at home. But I do think that we need to do something away from home - we really need to concentrate on the basics of the game. When teams change their squads around like Leinster will have to because of the Irish boys in the national squad, our our set piece and kicking game need to be spot on."

Hallam Amos has made the move from wing to full-back from the game against Newcastle in the LV=Cup. He is joined in the back-three by Matthew Pewtner who returned from injury last week and Will Harries who moves from open side to blindside. The centre pairing is made up of Pat Leach and experienced player Ashley Smith. Jason Tovey gets the nod as fly-half and welsh international Richie Rees takes his place as scrum half.

The front row takes on the form of Owen Evans as loose head prop, Welsh international hooker T. Rhys Thomas is called upon and Nathan Buck comes in as tight head prop. The second row is taken up by young gun Cory Hill and C Rob Sidoli, who also dons the captaincy. As for the back-row Lewis Evans and Nic Cudd are named as the flankers and Fijian international Netani Talei pulls on the number eight jersey.

Form: Leinster are the best side in the RaboDirect PRO12 on current form having tallied 23 league points from their last six matches, whilst their only defeat in the competition in their last eight encounters came at Murrayfield on 20th December. Leinster's most recent defeat by a Welsh region came at the Ospreys in November 2012. Newport Gwent Dragons home game with Edinburgh was postponed at the weekend due to inclement weather, whilst they have won just one of their last four matches in the PRO12. Dragons' only away victory in the tournament in almost twelve months came on a trip to Glasgow in November. Dragons have not beaten an Irish province on their own turf since they visited Ulster in the PRO12 in September 2008. Leinster have won their last seven fixtures against the Welshmen since the Dragons 30-14 victory at Rodney Parade in December 2009, whilst the Men from Gwent have never beaten Leinster in Dublin.

The teams:

Leinster: 15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Fergus McFadden, 13 Brendan Macken, 12 Noel Reid, 11 Darragh Fanning, 10 Ian Madigan, 9 Eoin Reddan, 8 Jordi Murphy, 7 Shane Jennings, 6 Rhys Ruddock, 5 Mike McCarthy, 4 Leo Cullen (c), 3 Martin Moore, 2 Sean Cronin, 1 Jack McGrath.
Replacements: 16 Aaron Dundon, 17 Michael Bent, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Tom Denton, 20 Dominic Ryan, 21 Issac Boss, 22 Jimmy Gopperth, 23 Darren Hudson.

Dragons: 15 Hallam Amos, 14 Matthew Pewtner, 13 Pat Leach, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Will Harries, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Richie Rees, 9 Netani Talei, 7 Nic Cudd, 6 Lewis Evans, 5 Rob Sidoli (c), 4 Cory Hill, 3 Nathan Buck, 2 T.Rhys Thomas, 1 Owen Evans.
Replacements: 16 Sam Parry, 17 Aaron Coundley, 18 Francisco Chaparro, 19 Matthew Screech, 20 Jevon Groves, 21 Wayne Evans, 22 Steffan Jones, 23 Ross Wardle.

Date: Friday, February 14
Venue: RDS, Dublin
Kickoff: 19:45 GMT
Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Marc Patton (Ireland), Barrie O'Connell (Ireland)
TMO: Kevin Beggs (Ireland)

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