Sunday 22 April 2018

Young guns must fire to slay Kings

Kings v Leinster Live TG4, KO 2.15

Joey Carbery will make his first start of the season in South Africa today as part of a youthful Leinster line-up. Photo: Sportsfile
Joey Carbery will make his first start of the season in South Africa today as part of a youthful Leinster line-up. Photo: Sportsfile

Leinster will look to maintain their winning ways in the PRO14 against Southern Kings after a turbulent week in South Africa.

They will do so with what must be the youngest first 15 they have ever sent out in the professional era.

For example, they will have three 21 year-old starters in Joey Carbery, in his first appearance of the season, Andrew Porter and James Ryan, making their first starts.

There is just one man, Sean Cronin, 31, over 30 years of age, and ten of the team are 25 or under.

Around Cronin in the front five will be Ryan, Porter, Ross Molony, 23, and Ed Byrne, 24.

The story of the latter is one of pain, patience and perseverance to finally make his first start at loose-head after a debut in 2014.

The Carlow native has had to overcome numerous injuries over the last few seasons which kept him out of the game between October 2014 and February 2017.

The youthful selection is based on athleticism and pace on what should be a fast surface.

This will suit the skills of the front five ahead of an exceptional back-row of captain Rhys Ruddock, Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan.

The Isa Nacewa/Jamison Gibson-Park saga has been an unwanted and embarrassing distraction.

However, coach Leo Cullen announced the disruption to the group as "pretty minimum" after the Captain's Run in Port Elizabeth yesterday.

For the record, neither Nacewa nor Gibson-Park were named in the first 15 which was told to the players on Tuesday before they flew to South Africa.

In fact, the two New Zealanders will join up with Leinster in Cape Town tomorrow on foot of securing their visas back in Dublin.

Scrum-half Luke McGrath was at the 2012 U20 World Cup in South Africa in his only previous experience in the country.

"I really enjoyed it. South Africa won it that year. But we beat them in the opening game," he recalled. "It is a great country to play rugby in and I really enjoyed my time here back then."

Fast-forwarding, McGrath will be keen to continue Leinster's clean start to the season at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium.

"We've had two good wins so far, but we know the Kings will have a backlash from last week," he said.

For their part, the Kings have to show they are a different animal at home than the meek travellers of the first two rounds.

"There are many times that home support has given the Kings that extra bit of lift that's necessary when things get tough," said Kings chief Charl Crous.

"We are definitely going to need our fans to come to the party again. We're encouraging them to team up with us against the Northern Hemisphere throughout the Guinness PRO14."

Kings: M Banda; Y Penxe, B Klaasen, L Vulindlu, S Sithole; K Coleman, R van Rooyen; S Ferreira, M Willemse (capt), L Puppuma, S Greeff, D van Schalkwyk, K Majola, V Sekekete, A Ntsila.

Leinster: J Carbery; A Byrne, R O'Loughlin, N Reid, D Kearney; R Byrne, L McGrath; E Byrne, S Cronin, A Porter, R Molony, J Ryan, R Ruddock (capt), J Murphy, J Conan.

Verdict: Leinster.

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