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Sunday 19 August 2018

Fanning flames of healthy ambition

Darragh Fanning. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Darragh Fanning. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

CONNACHT v LEINSTER

The Sportsground, Tonight 7.45, TG4

LEINSTER'S Darragh Fanning has an axe to grind and that makes him dangerous as he comes face-to-face with his former club.

"For me personally, I would love to be involved to show them maybe they were wrong in letting me go," he said.

The winger gets his chance to shine tonight, knowing the Connacht he left behind is not the Connacht he will turn out against.

GREAT

"That's two great wins on the trot for them. It's such a tough place to go, The Sportsground. I know from playing there. They're going to try and make it a fortress down there.

"We're going to have to be ready for what's going to be a physical game."

Fanning was not alone in leaving Connacht. Then again, Mike McCarthy and Seán Cronin were courted by Leinster. There is a difference between leaving and being asked to leave.

There is no bad blood: "I loved it down there. I could never knock them. They gave me a chance straight out of the AIL when a lot of clubs wouldn't.

"I will never bad mouth Connacht. I really enjoyed my year down there. It was just sad the way it ended," he said.

The 28-year-old journeyman has finally found his home at Leinster where Joe Schmidt first saw him playing for St Mary's in the All-Ireland League to start a process that has seen him pick up 16 caps in little over a season with just one try to show for it. He wants to change that.

Pat Lam's Connacht have all the reason in the world to make it three wins from three.

This is something they have never been able to do in the PRO12 League. The market reality is that Connacht have been defeated in their last 11 against Irish provinces since tearing Leinster to shreds in September 2012 whereas the champions have won six straight against domestic opposition.

This is a measure of the proposition which will be put to the homesteaders.

Then again, their siege mentality has always been about breaking down expectations.

Leinster's strength is reflected in how they are able to lose Zane Kirchner and bring in Fergus McFadden in his place with Rhys Ruddock making his seasonal debut amid reports that he is looking better than ever.

The often overlooked Dominic Ryan gets another shot in the back row as a reflection of how well he went against The Scarlets, moving from six to seven.

Gordon D'Arcy appears on the bench, perhaps adding fuel to the speculation that coach Matt O'Connor is seriously considering Ian Madigan as a long-term prospect at 12 and even D'Arcy at 13.

It will be interesting to note what position the Wexford man will take up when he is summoned for duty from the bench.

VERDICT: Leinster

Connacht: D Leader; N Adeolokun, R Henshaw, D McSharry, D Poolman; J Carty, K Marmion; D Buckley, D Heffernan, N White, A Muldowney, Q Roux, J Muldoon (capt), W Faloon, E McKeon.

Leinster: R Kearney; F McFadden, B Macken, I Madigan, D Fanning; J Gopperth, I Boss; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Ross, D Toner, M McCarthy, R Ruddock, D Ryan, J Heaslip (capt).

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