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Blues can kick Dragons aside

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16 February 2013; Fergus McFadden, Leinster, is tackled by Filippo Guisti, Benetton Treviso. Celtic League 2012/13, Round 15, Leinster v Benetton Treviso, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

16 February 2013; Fergus McFadden, Leinster, is tackled by Filippo Guisti, Benetton Treviso. Celtic League 2012/13, Round 15, Leinster v Benetton Treviso, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

16 February 2013; Fergus McFadden, Leinster, is tackled by Filippo Guisti, Benetton Treviso. Celtic League 2012/13, Round 15, Leinster v Benetton Treviso, RDS, Ballsbridge, Dublin. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

THERE is a degree of mystery and intrigue around the selection of Fergus McFadden at inside centre for Leinster this evening.

Coach Joe Schmidt will have two kickers at his disposal in the on-form Ian Madigan at fly-half and a natural goal-kicker in McFadden at inside centre.

There is further interest in the decision by Declan Kidney to send Ireland kicking coach Mark Tainton to Rodney Parade tonight. This can be explained by the fact that Tainton lives in Bristol.

If McFadden steps up to place kick, it is probably because the Irish management have suggested the Suncroft centre will be needed for exactly that purpose at The Aviva Stadium next Saturday.

For the moment, Schmidt will have five returning Ireland internationals at his disposal. Hooker Sean Cronin, lock Devin Toner, scrum-half Eoin Reddan, McFadden and full-back Luke Fitzgerald backbone the eleven changes.

It is a measure of the strength in depth of the squad when all, or most, are available that Leinster can hand a bonus-point 32-5 thrashing to Scarlets one week and transform the next, all of this while their first choice Ireland men are tucked away at Carton House.

There is also the interesting full debut of former Ireland U20 prop Jack O'Connell after six appearances from the bench on the loose-head side of the scrum.

The Leinster coaching ticket does not believe in giving opportunity. It believes in earning it. This is certainly the case for O'Connell when Jack McGrath is on the bench.

The contest between the Academy's O'Connell, 21, a more athletic, skilled, mobile option, and McGrath, 23, a slowly, surely developing robust candidate will be interesting as they battle to be back-up to Cian Healy for the start of next season.

There is also the welcome sight of Mark Flanagan winning his first start of the season following 23 minutes of impact action against The Scarlets.

The Mullingar man was hit with a bulging disc injury that required surgery and was re-activated when turning awkwardly at home. This will be his third start and ninth appearance for the club.

Verdict: Leinster

The Dragons: D Evans; A Hughes, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos; S Jones, J Evans; P Price, S Parry, N Buck, I Nimmo, J Groves, L Evans (capt), N Cudd, I Jones.

Leinster: L Fitzgerald; D Kearney, B Macken, F McFadden, F Carr; I Madigan, E Reddan; J O'Connell, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Flanagan, D Toner, D Ryan, S Jennings (capt), R Ruddock.


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