A THURSDAY NIGHT clash at the Cardiff Arms Parks; it doesn’t get less glamorous than that in the Pro12.
Not that Leinster will be duly concerned by beauty if they can come away with another valuable four points against the Blues this evening. Now just three points behind league leaders Munster, maintaining a four game winning streak in this competition is what Matt O’Connor is after in the Welsh capital.
Having named a starting team that includes Ireland internationals Eoin Reddan, Richardt Strauss, Kevin McLaughlin and Luke Fitzgerald [barring a late withdrawal], the Australian head coach will expect a more cohesive performance than the one that saw off the Dragons last weekend at the RDS.
In the opposite corner is a Blues side that centre Brendan Macken says has “class in abundance”. The Leinster midfielder was joined by teammate Michael Bent in singling out Cardiff’s No. 8 Robin Copeland as the danger man this week, with his recent involvement in the Ireland set-up having given the Wexford man another confidence boost in an excellent season.
Macken name-checked the likes of Harry Robinson, Josh Navidi and Lloyd Williams as men who could easily be involved in Wales’ clash with France if things had gone their way this season. Instead, that trio are focused on helping the Blues back up the Pro12 ladder; the Welsh region sit ninth after just four wins this season.
Fitting into the system
For many of the Leinster players, this period of the season provides the opportunity to impress in the absence of the top internationals, nowhere more apparent than in the game time Macken and Bent are receiving. Despite that, the Ireland international prop believes that the younger players in the squad have fitted into the game plan rather than looking for personal glory.
When the time comes, they get to express themselves and show what they can bring. But I think everyone just fits into the system quite well and everyone focuses on the detail to have that all covered off. Anyone that does come in makes a pretty seamless transition to the squad.”
Bent says Joe Schmidt has been in touch to let him know that he’s “still on the radar” for further international honours, while Macken understands the need to shine now, with a big gap opening up at outside centre in Leinster’s first-choice team next season.
However, the 22-year-old underlines that rugby players tend to think in more day-to-day terms and says the only focus right now is beating the Blues and “keeping that momentum through until the end of the season.”
Leinster V Cardiff kicks off at 8.05pm this evening with live coverage on RTÉ Two.
Leinster: Z Kirchner; D Fanning, B Macken, N Reid, L Fitzgerald/S Coghlan-Murray; J Gopperth, E Reddan; M Bent, R Strauss, T Furlong; T Denton, Q Roux; K McLaughlin (capt.), D Ryan, J Conan.
Replacements: A Dundon, J O’Connell, E Byrne, M McCarthy, R Ruddock, L McGrath, I Madigan, D Hudson.
Cardiff Blues: Dan Fish; Owen Jenkins, Isaia Tuifua, Gavin Evans, Harry Robinson,; Gareth Davies, Lewis Jones; Sam Hobbs (capt.), Kristian Dacey, Scott Andrews; James Down, Filo Paulo; Macauley Cook, Josh Navidi, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Rhys Williams, Tom Davies, Patrick Palmer, Chris Dicomidis, Luke Hamilton, Tomos Williams, Simon Humberstone, Tom Williams.
Referee: Andrew McMenemy [SRU]