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Monday 10 December 2018

Leinster Dragon slayers

Byrne to guide rookies Patterson and O'Brien as Blues bid to stretch lead at top

PROMISING: Jimmy O’Brien is poised to make his competitive debut for Leinster off the bench. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
PROMISING: Jimmy O’Brien is poised to make his competitive debut for Leinster off the bench. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jimmy O'Brien will start for the first time and Patrick Patterson is set for his first cap off the bench for Leinster away to the Dragons at Rodney Parade this evening.

The league-leading return of eight wins from nine to create a 10-point gap back to the Scarlets in Conference B has also created the room for coach Leo Cullen to breathe new life into Leinster.

Centre O'Brien, a former out-half at Newbridge College, has been part of Ireland's Sevens progress.

Isa Nacewa was known to be a big backer of the quick-thinking, smart passing midfielder.

Scrum-half Patterson is that rare commodity out of Blackrock College, entering the professional game with a chip on his shoulder.

All the way up, he has had to fight for every chance he has earned.

Patterson must have watched with frustration as Hugh O'Sullivan was awarded a full Academy place as a scrum-half, even though the latter had played all of his schools rugby for Belvedere at full-back.

It has all been rocket fuel for the fiery half-back and it will be interesting to monitor the paths of O'Sullivan and Patterson in the years ahead.

Ireland's Ross Byrne returns to ten - Ciaran Frawley slips to the bench - outside Jamison Gibson-Park, and the half-back pair will have to be the guiding lights.

Full-back Hugo Keenan is retained for his second start, having impressed last week; young back-rows Scott Penny and Caelan Doris also keep their places.

Once again, Scott Fardy captains of a bunch of novices.

It is in the front five where Leinster will have to generate enough momentum to quench the Dragons' fire.

Andrew Porter has been stowed away on the bench for final-quarter impact.

Leinster old boy Bernard Jackman has been banned from Rodney Parade for two matches - this is his second - for unkind comments about a referee.

The Carlow man will have drilled down on a few home truths and the Newport supporters can be a factor in pursuit of a fourth league win of the campaign.

"It's a massive game for us and we know we must raise our performance levels if we are to compete," he said.

"There were elements of last weekend's game with Edinburgh that were very pleasing and we need to ensure we now build on that. We've integrated our Welsh internationals back into the set-up this week and it's a boost to have them involved."

Still, Jackman has resisted the temptation to start Elliot Dee, Ross Moriarty and Cory Hill, leaving them all for impact from the bench.

"When Leinster hit top form they can be devastating, as we saw when they beat Wasps in Europe and last week against Ospreys," added Jackman.

"When we played them in Round 3 we played 25 minutes with 14 men and it was difficult. Our discipline has to be spot on and the improvement with our defence needs to continue.

"It will be tested under the most extreme circumstances and we have to be ready."

Dragons: J Williams; J Rosser, T Morgan, J Sage, H Amos; J Tovey, R Williams; R Bevington, R Hibbard (capt), L Fairbrother, R Landman, L Evans, H Keddie, A Wainwright, O Griffiths. Reps: E Dee, A Jarvis, L Brown, C Hill, R Moriarty; T Knoyle, A Robson, A Warren.

Leinster: H Keenan; A Byrne, J O'Brien, C O'Brien, D Kearney; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; E Byrne, J Tracy, M Bent, R Molony, S Fardy (capt), J Murphy, S Penny, C Doris. Reps: B Byrne, P Dooley, A Porter, M Kearney, M Deegan; P Patterson, C Frawley, T Daly.

Verdict: Leinster

  • PRO 14 LEAGUE: DRAGONS v LEINSTER, Live TG4/eir Sport (KO 5.15)

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