Leinster out to reverse slump
September 23, 2010
Jonathan Sexton misses out again this weekend © Getty Images
Round four of the Magners League gets underway on Friday with Leinster out to rebound from the season's biggest upset to date against Edinburgh at Murayfield.
Last weekend's loss to Benetton Treviso heaped further pressure onto the shoulders of coach Joe Schmidt, whose reign thus far has produced underwhelming results. The former Clermont backs coach has not been helped by the flying start made by Munster, Ulster and Connacht, but must be desperate for a big win on Scotland. Edinburgh will be in no mood to roll over however, with even Leinster's poor start to the season outstripping their three losses to date.
The visitors' cause has not been aided, though, by the loss of Ireland fly-half Jonathan Sexton, who was initially named in the starting XV only to be withdrawn at the last minute to afford him further time to recover from a quad strain. However, the ultra-experienced centre pairing of Gordon D'Arcy and Brian O'Driscoll has been restored to the midfield, while fellow international Rob Kearney will play his 100th game for Leinster.
Edinburgh were hit hard by an injury to fly-half Phil Godman this week and the Scottish international is now facing six months out with a torn ACL. David Blair has been promoted to the starting line-up in his place while Esteban Lozada is recalled in the second-row.
Leinster's conquerors, Treviso, have another tough home test in store with the visit of Cardiff Blues on Friday. The Blues cruised past the Dragons last weekend and will want more of the same as they aim to improve on last season's inconsistency. Despite their resounding win over Leinster, there are changes to the Treviso pack as flanker Marco Filippucci and hooker Franco Sbaraglini come in for their Magners League debuts. Props Pedro Di Santo and Augusto Allori are also recalled, as is captain Antonio Pavanello in the second-row.
Blues boss Dai Young is without Xavier Rush and Casey Laulala due to injury, with Maama Molitika moving to No.8 in place of Rush and Dafydd Hewitt partnering Tom Shanklin in the centre. Wales lock Bradley Davies and fullback Chris Czekaj are rested. Dan Parks starts alongside Lloyd Williams at halfback.
League leaders Munster are away to Glasgow in round four, having beaten the champions, the Ospreys, last time out. Ireland flanker David Wallace is recalled in the back-row for Munster while Lifeimi Mafi reclaims the outside-centre berth. Johne Murphy shifts to the wing in place of the injured Ian Dowling. Moray Low returns up front for Glasgow, who also rotate their fly-halves. Duncan Weir replaces Ruaridh Jackson at No.10 while Federico Aramburu covers for Hefin O'Hare on the wing after his Scotland Sevens call-up for the Commonwealth Games.
Breaking up the Irish monopoly at the top of the table are the Scarlets, who face a local derby against the Dragons at Rodney Parade on Friday. The home side received a major boost this week with the news that skipper Tom Willis is fit to start while Adam Hughes is called in on the wing after a late try against the Blues. Scarlets boss Nigel Davies has made two changes after their comfortable win over Aironi, with Josh Turnbull starting in the back-row and Vernon Cooper drafted in at lock.
In Swansea, the Ospreys face their second Italian challenge of the season, with Aironi the visitors to the Liberty Stadium on Saturday. The visitors are boosted by the fitness of Italy international flanker Josh Sole, who starts at openside. Gareth Krause replaces Nick Williams at No.8 while former Cheetahs wing Danwel Demas shifts to fullback.
As for the home side, there is only one change to the back-line which faced Munster, with Richard Fussell returning on the right wing at the expense of Nikki Walker. In the pack, Richard Hibbard and Adam Jones come into the front row, Ian Gough replaces Ian Evans in the second row and Ben Lewis takes over from Marty Holah at openside flanker.
The round ends on Saturday night in Galway, where Connacht put their excellent start to the season on the line against an equally impressive Ulster outfit, who will be aiming for a fourth successive win of the campaign.
The visitors are buoyed by the availability of Paddy Wallace, who will start at fly-half, with Niall O'Connor relegated to the bench. Rory Best makes a welcome return at hooker and he will be joined in the front row by Bryan Young and Tom Court. There are also starts for recent arrivals Tim Barker and Pedrie Wannenburg. In addition, Dan Tuohy is fit again and he has been named amongst the replacements.
Unsurprisingly, Connacht boss Eric Elwood has named an unchanged line-up on the back of last weekend's stirring win in Glasgow. The only alteration comes on the bench, with Darragh Fanning taking the place of Tiernan O'Halloran.
The controversial tackling technique will be in full swing in Dublin on Sunday, writes Conor O'Shea, and could be a decisive factor for Ireland