Thursday 27 October 2016

Des Berry: Boy Racers up to speed on Bath

Dooley's first Leinster start comes in Europe

Peter Dooley will start in the front row for Leinster today Photo: Sportsfile
Peter Dooley will start in the front row for Leinster today Photo: Sportsfile
Leinster's James Tracy Photo: Sportsfile

It was just recently Mike McCarthy described himself as "an old banger" of a motor compared to the youths romping around his workplace.

Well, the 34 year-old Ireland international will be surrounded by Leinster's version of 'boy racers' in the front-five this afternoon.

Ireland international Tadhg Furlong, 23, loose-head Peter Dooley, 21, hooker James Tracy, 24, and Ross Molony, 21, will all start for the first time in The Champions Cup.

This is no paperweight Bath front row either. England unit David Wilson appears as their cornerstone tight-head beside international colleague Rob Webber.

In fact, the Leinster back row of Rhys Ruddock, 25, Jordi Murphy, 24, and Josh van der Flier, 22, doesn't do too much for the age profile of the forward pack either.

They will have to counter the brute power of Springbok Francois Louw, 20-stone blindside Matt Garvey and number eight Leroy Houston.

When McCarthy is removed from the mathematics, Leinster are left with a forward seven that average out at just under 23 years of age.

Great experience

"It can be a great experience for them and they have worked really hard for this opportunity," said coach Leo Cullen.

While McCarthy will bring physical example, the calling of the lineout will fall on Molony and Ruddock is the natural born leader.

"We are out of Europe but these guys have a big future here.

"They are the future of this club and, hopefully, it can be a great day for us."

The most important word in that last sentence is 'hopefully' because you never know you can do something until you've done it.

"Well a lot of those guys have worked closely together which is a big thing as well," he stated.

"We have to manage the group as well. There are a few injuries. Cian (Healy) is obviously out. Mike Ross is out.

"Regardless of that, we have full confidence that those guys can do a job for us."

Usually, when a coach offers up opportunity, he does it for few, surrounded by many old heads.

Cullen does not seem to want to protect his interests. He puts those of the club ahead of his own, knowing that the buck will stop with him when the press circles in later this evening.

These young men owe him everything they have for as long as they can give it.

Cullen has simply refused to bow to the pressure of risking Leinster's recent upturn in fortune to favour the brave decision.

"It's a fantastic chance for them to showcase what they're about against a very tough Bath pack," said the coach.

If Leinster can stand up to the power of Bath for the first hour, there is a decent level of impact available on the bench from the likes of Jonathan Sexton, Sean O'Brien, Sean Cronin, Jack McGrath and Martin Moore.

The back division offers more protection, or guidance, to 20 year-old Garry Ringrose in the coveted outside centre slot.

The question quickly becomes whether or not the numbers nine-to-fifteen will see enough ball to make Bath think twice in defence.

In closing, this looks suspiciously close to the fifteen that will line out against The Dragons in the PRO12 League on January 29th.

Imagine that! The Champions Cup is being used to prepare Leinster for a concentrated effort on reclaiming the PRO12 League.

Leinster: Z Kirchner; I Nacewa (capt), G Ringrose, B Te'o, D Kearney; I Madigan, L McGrath; P Dooley, J Tracy, T Furlong, R Molony, M McCarthy, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Murphy. Bath: A Watson; S Rokoduguni, J Joseph, K Eastmond, M Banahan; G Ford, C Cook; M Lahiff, R Webber, D Wilson, S Hooper (capt), D Day, M Garvey, F Louw, L Houston

Verdict: Bath

Leinster v Bath, rds today (live 5.30 Sky Sports 3)

Promoted articles

Entertainment News