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Thursday 8 December 2016

Leinster out to restore old order against Tribesmen

Rhys Ruddock
Rhys Ruddock

Let's get ready to rumble! It is second away to third. It is Connacht ahead of Leinster, but by just three points.

It has all the ingredients of a post-Christmas cracker with the home province looking to leapfrog the Westerners.

It is also an opportunity for Leinster's captain for the night Rhys Ruddock (right) to get a close-up and physical view of a changing, improving Connacht.

"They've been gradually building," offered Ruddock.

It took the length of two seasons for Lam to bring in the men and the style of play he wants to employ moving forward.

"Now, they're at a stage where they can consistently put together performances and they are playing a lot more rugby than they probably have in the past.

Grit

"They've always had that kind of grit and steel that they would come here and make it difficult for us.

"Now, they've got a bit more football, a couple of players who really add a lot to their game."

There have been incremental improvements driven by coach Lam that have Connacht lodged in unfamiliar territory on the table.

"This season seems to be the time where it's all coming together," continued Ruddock.

Coach Leo Cullen has opted for eleven changes from the welcome win over Munster in Limerick with forwards Jack McGrath and Devin Toner and backs Fergus McFadden and Garry Ringrose retained.

Connacht are beginning to embrace the return of some of their previously injured troops.

Former Auckland Blues hooker Tom McCartney and ex-New Zealand U20 captain Jake Heenan will be bristlnig with renewed enthusiasm.

"Tom adds that bit of experience and leadership that is needed in these big games, especially with our young back line," said Lam.

"We are all delighted to see Jake returning after what has been a challenging six months for him."

It all adds to the feel-good factor that was dented by Ulster's smash-and-grab 10-3 victory at The Sportsground last week.

"We travel to Dublin tomorrow confident in the knowledge that we have a good chance of getting the points on offer against Leinster," he said.

"As long as we play as a team and can take the opportunities we create.

"Although we face a big hurdle at the RDS, we are excited by it and are looking forward to the challenge."

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, G Ringrose, B Te'o, D Kearney; J Sexton, L McGrath; J McGrath, R Strauss, M Moore, D Toner, M McCarthy, R Ruddock (capt), J van der Flier, J Murphy.

Connacht: T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy; J Carty, K Marmion; F Bealham, T McCartney, N White, A Muldowney, A Browne, J Muldoon (capt), J Heenan, E Masterson.

Verdict: Leinster

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