While attention may be focused on the World Cup the domestic action starts this Friday night as reigning Heineken Cup champions Leinster kick off their RaboDirect Pro 12 campaign underway with a trip to Welsh side Ospreys, kick off 7.05pm.
It will be the first chance for Luke Fitzgerald to show the Ireland management what they are missing as he starts his first competitive game for his province this season. He will be joined at centre by Eoin O’Malley with David Kearney, Fionn Carr and Isa Nacewa forming the back three.
Joe Schmidt has also handed competitive debuts to the half-back pairing of John Cooney and Mat Berquist in a side that is much changed from the last time Leinster saw competitive action back in May against Munster.
Despite a mixed pre-season, with a win against the Melbourne Rebels and a loss to old foes Northampton, Schmidt should feel reasonably confident that, despite missing his Ireland front liners, his side should be able to get the job done.
They will face a stern test on the opening night as the Ospreys will be keen to atone for the five point loss they suffered at the RDS way back in January when they last played Leinster.
Despite missing the likes of Tommy Bowe and the Welsh contingent, Director of Coaching, Scott Johnson is hopeful of a good display from his side.
“We’re really looking forward to Friday night, it’ll be good to get back into the serious stuff after a tough pre-season and it should a good test for where we are. It’s important that we get off to a good start, but we’re up against a good team in Leinster, regardless of how many players they will have away at the World Cup.
“This group of players have come together really well over the summer, they’ve been diligent, worked hard, and are ready to go. They know their roles, what they’ve got do and they are desperately keen to do well for the Ospreys.”
The vote however goes to Leinster who with the likes of Fitzgerald, Nacewa and Fionn Carr in the backline should have too much firepower for the Ospreys and can get their 2011/12 season off to a winning start.
Kristian Phillips, Andrew Bishop,Ashley Beck, Hanno Dirksen, Dan Biggar, Rhys Webb, Duncan Jones, Mefin Davies, Cai Griffiths, Ian Gough, Ian Evans, Tom Smith, Justin Tipuric (Capt),
REPLACEMENTS: Matthew Dwyer, Ken Dowding, Joe Rees, James King, Morgan Allen, Tom Isaacs, Matthew Morgan,
I Nacewa; F Carr, E O’Malley, L Fitzgerald, D Kearney; M Berquist, J Cooney; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, J Hagan; D Browne, D Toner; K McLaughlin, D Ryan, R Ruddock.
REPLACEMENTS: A Dundon, J McGrath, J O’Connell, M Flanagan, L Auva’a, C Willis, I Madigan, B Macken.
REFEREE: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU), ASSISTANT REFEREES: Gwyn Morris, Jon Mason (both WRU), TMO: Neill Ballard (WRU)