– 2008/9 season preview –

– 2008/9 season preview –

Club Details
RDS Stadium,
55 Main Street,
Dublin 4.

Stadium Capacity: 18,500
Website: www.leinsterrugby.ie
Founded: 1879

Last time around: It was a good year for Leinster as they were crowned champions for the second time. Despite missing several key internationals at the start of the season, all away on World Cup duty, Leinster maintained consistent form throughout their campaign, losing just four games on their way to a well-deserved title. As the season developed, Leinster emerged as clear favourites for the title, and despite a late challenge from Cardiff Blues it was rarely in doubt.

This time: Far from resting on their laurels, Leinster have moved to bolster their squad ahead of the coming season. Three big name signings, in the shape of CJ Van Der Linde, Rocky Elsom and Isa Nacewa, have signalled their intent to make it two titles on the bounce. All three will add much needed experience when the international season deprives Leinster of a clutch of regulars, as well as aiding in the development of the province's rising stars. It is always a touch harder when you are the defending champions but expect Leinster to hold their nerve and make it a second title in as many years.

Coach: Michael Cheika is entering his fourth season with Leinster and has proved a worthy leader of the Irish province. Having cut his teeth with Randwick in Australia Cheika arrived at Leinster in 2005 and has steadily transformed them into champions. After a second-place finish in his first season in charge Cheika followed that up with a third-place finish before taking the title last season. With Jonno Gibbes arriving as forwards coach for the coming season Leinster will fancy their coaching duo can lead them to back-to-back titles.

Captain: Leinster will be led by Leo Cullen, after Brian O'Driscoll decided that he would be better off leaving the leadership to one who was not set to be on national duty for three months of the year. Cullen has made 102 appearances for Leinster, 17 already as captain in BOD's absence, and will provide leadership from the engine-room where the side is emerging as a force comparable to its stellar back-line.

One to watch: There had been much debate over his future in Australia but Rocky Elsom finally opted to take the plunge and head north – much to the delight of Leinster and their fans. It is yet to be seen how he will adapt to the rigours of Magners League rugby but one suspects he will take to it like a duck to water, such is his pedigree. With no international rugby to distract his focus Elsom will relish the abrasive nature of the tournament and should come into his own as the season develops.

Final 2008/09 league position prediction: 1st

Squad: Brian Blaney, Gary Brown, Felipe Contepomi, Leo Cullen, Gordon D'Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Luke Fitzgerald, John Fogarty, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Trevor Hogan, Shane Horgan, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Cameron Jowitt, Chris Keane, Rob Kearney, Simon Keogh, Stephen Keogh, Stephen Knoop, Ronan McCormack, Fergus McFadden, Kevin McLaughlin, Ruaidhri Murphy, Isa Nacewa, Sean O'Brien, Brian O'Driscoll, Malcolm O'Kelly, Eoin O'Malley, Johnny Sexton, Devin Toner, Chris Whitaker, Stan Wright.

Colours: Dark Blue (home) White (away)

Tickets: Ticket prices range from £5 to £27

Travel connections:

Car: Go through the East Link Toll Bridge, Junction 80 (Dublin Outer Orbital Route); At the roundabout take the third exit signposted N11, N81, Irishtown (Junction 81). Turn right then and turn immediately left at the traffic signals into Londonbridge Road R111 (Signposted N11, N81). Junction 51 (R815) at traffic signals turn left R815, signposted Ballsbridge. Proceed through the next traffic lights and The RDS is situated on your right.

Train: There are two main train stations in Dublin: Connolly & Heuston. You can connect to the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) directly from Connolly station to Ballsbridge. You can connect to the Luas directly at Heuston station and transfer to the DART at Connolly station to Ballsbridge. Follow the Exit signs and turn right onto Sandymount Avenue. Continue until you reach the traffic lights and then turn right onto Merrion Road (Bewleys and the Four Seasons Hotel will be directly in front of you. The RDS Showgrounds are situated on the left hand side (Merrion Road).

Bus: The RDS is only 16km from Dublin International Airport. An Aircoach to Ballsbridge runs from outside the airport every 15 minutes and drops outside the Main Hall entrance to the RDS. The journey costs £12 return and takes approximately 30-45 minutes depending on traffic.

Plane: Dublin Airport is the closest to the RDS and you should check individual airlines to see if they fly direct to Dublin.