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Wednesday 26 September 2018

Leinster selection shuffle can slay Dragons

Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Leinster head coach Matt O'Connor. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

THERE have been all sorts of interesting and reassuring selections made by coach Matt O'Connor.

Zane Kirchner will make his first start for Leinster in his natural role at fifteen before he reunites with South Africa for the November internationals.

Lote Tuqiri is back where he belongs on the wing and will be eager for fly-half Jimmy Gopperth to make use of his bulk close to the fringes. Luke Fitzgerald will get to spend time at outside centre with the long-term goal of succeeding Brian O'Driscoll there for club and country. The Greystones man is no longer a learning professional. He has the experience at the highest level and still retains the faith of all those who work with him.

He has to stay free of injury and begin to turn in those physical defensive performances that are part of his mentality.

Take note, there may also be a Leinster senior debut for Tadhg Furlong, an outstanding prospect for senior international honours in the not-too-distant future.

The former Wexford inter-county underage footballer and hurler will turn 22 on Tuesday week and has made it this far, despite a horrendous series of injuries.

 

GIFT

Furlong has what very few tight-heads have in their arsenal, a real footballing gift to go after the ball and use it. He just needs the time to find his feet at the scrum.

The equilibrium of the scrum will be tested by the move of Michael Bent onto the loose-head side, Martin Moore returning from Camp Ireland to continue his superb season. There will be no room for complacency with Shane Jennings taking the armband, though Leinster have won their last six against the Dragons.

This is the time for flanker Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock, stationed at number eight, to deliver and for locks Tom Denton and Quinn Roux to show they are first-team material.

Newport-Gwent Dragons v Leinster, Rodney Parade, Tonight 7.05 (Live RTE2)

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster: Z Kirchner; D Fanning, L Fitzgerald, N Reid, L Tuqiri; J Gopperth, J Cooney; M Bent, A Dundon, M Moore, Q Roux, T Denton, D Ryan, S Jennings (capt), R Ruddock.

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