Third meet fourth as Leinster hook up with Connacht in their first inter provincal clash of the season ,in the RaboDirect Pro 12, this Saturday evening at the RDS, kick off 5.00pm.
Having won three of their last four games,including a 26-7 defeat of Aironi, Leinster come into Saturday’s game full of confidence and buoyed by the news that Kevin McLaughlin and Dominic Ryan both return from ankle injuries, having missed Leinster’s last couple of games.
Joe Schmidt will be looking for a much improved all round performance from his side after a poor first half saw his side go 0-7 down to Aironi at half time last weekend at the RDS. Ian Madigan may have played himself into the starting line up against Connacht after making a huge impact, scoring a try and generally lifiting the Leinster side in the second half against Aironi.
Schmidt will also be pleased that Irish international Luke Fitzgerald showed some of his old sparkle and looks to be regaining his confidence after a rough few months for on the pitch which saw him slip down the international pecking order.
Speaking ahead of the game Schmidt is acutly aware of just how close Saturday’s game will be “It’s a huge local derby with them being just down the road in Galway.
“A lot of our players have played there and a lot of their players have played a bit here and the players know each other pretty well. They’re like brothers. They’re best of buddies except on the field.
“We certainly need to start better than we did on Saturday. We can’t afford to give Connacht so much latitude and not expect to get a loss on the board.
“I think we were a little bit unlucky that Isa (Nacewa) had an off day with the boot but you’ve just got to go back and get another few tries and thankfully that’s what we did in the second half.
“They’ll come here with confidence, they got a bonus point at Ospreys which is a lot better than we did, and they’ve really been very difficult to beat so far this season
“It’s winner takes all, winner stays in the top four and the other one will probably drop out”
Connacht come to Dublin locked on the same points as Leinster having made an excellent start to their domestic campaign. Spurred on by their maiden Heineken Cup campaign Eric Elwood has invested heavily in the close season and is starting to reap the rewards and despite a number of injury doubts Elwood is not scared to back his young players this weekend.
“I’d like to show faith in the younger boys. We don’t have too many options in the back, but I have no issue going down to the U20s. I have already spoken to Nigel Carolan this morning and told him we have a bit of a crisis. I have no issue going there at all.
“Gavin Duffy has a haematoma in his calf and Tiernan O’Halloran is struggling with a hamstring injury, so hopefully they can make the Leinster game.
“They have both gone for cryotherapy in Cork and we are just keeping out fingers crossed that they will make the game. We are going to give the guys every chance to prove their fitness.
While Connacht have made great strides on and off the pitch in recent years they still have a little way to go to match the likes of Leinster and Munster, and even though they have put it up to Leinster at the RDS in the past, the vote goes to Leinster in what should be a full blooded clash this Saturday.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU, 34th competition game)
Assistant Referees: John Lacey, Mark Patton (both IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan (IRFU)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (IRFU)
We will have a live match tracker on the match