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Sunday 17 December 2017

connacht will be ready: Joe

Schmidt knows old boys will be fired up for Leinster

Connacht will look for their third straight victory over Leinster at The Sportsground in the Magners League this evening on the night when Leo Cullen will make his first start since a shoulder reconstruction.

The Westerners will have to have all their players in tune, especially Leinster's old boys -- out-half Ian Keatley, wing sensation Fionn Carr and tight-head up-and-comer Jamie Hagan, never mind new boy Darragh Fanning.

"I'm expecting them to really charge at us, particularly some of our exports (who are) there," said Leinster coach Joe Schmidt.

The Kiwi has shown his respect for Connacht by making just four changes, one forced by injury, as Cullen, scrum-half Isaac Boss and centres Fergus McFadden and Eoin O'Malley moved into the hot seats in order to kick-start Leinster's, heretofore, sub-standard Magners campaign.

"There are some really good young guys who have gone there and are showing a fair bit of form," he said. "I know that they'll be really motivated.



Underdog

"I know that Connacht see themselves as the underdog and they're always highly motivated for these Leinster matches."

For sure, Galwayman John Muldoon, their captain, physical and spiritual leader, will look to get into the ribs of the vaunted Jamie Heaslip in what is a potentially combustible match-up between the two number eights.

"They could have, and maybe should have, beaten Ulster in the last Irish match-up that they had," added Schmidt.

"With the quality of the start of the season that Ulster have had it speaks volumes for what Eric (Elwood) has done and is doing there currently.

"The confidence that they will bring to the game means that that there's no doubt that they will come very hard right from the start."

The Connacht loose forwards Muldoon, Johnny O'Connor and Ray Ofisa will have to be at their very best, as a unit, to cope with the supremely athletic Leinster trio of Sean O'Brien, Shane Jennings and Jamie Heaslip, who is looking to maintain his unbeaten record as Leinster captain.



Obscurity

Connacht recovered confidence in their 16-13 defeat of Bayonne in the Amlin Challenge Cup, a week after a woeful display at Cavalieri Estra in Italy.

It highlighted the disparity in performance that can come when the attitude of players is not spot-on.

Coach Eric Elwood has rewarded those from last week by naming the same side again, save for the introduction of Ezra Taylor to the replacements for Andrew Browne.

It is interesting to note the retention of wing Fanning, plucked from All-Ireland League obscurity by Elwood.

He has made a favourable enough impression to earn the daunting task of going one-on-one with Isa Nacewa in what will be an interesting match-up between the highly paid import and the man from nowhere.

Connacht: G Duffy; D Fanning, N Ta'auso, K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, M McCarthy, J O'Connor, R Ofisa, J Muldoon (capt).

Leinster: R Kearney; S Horgan, E O'Malley, F McFadden, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen, D Toner, S O'Brien, S Jennings, J Heaslip (capt).

CONNACHT v LEINSTER, Live RTé 2 (KO 6.05)

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