URC; Cardiff vs Leinster, Cardiff Arms Park, Saturday January 29th (kick-off 7.35pm, live on Premier Sports)
Leinster head coach Leo Cullen is offering a glimpse into the future of one position by handing secondrow Joe McCarthy his debut. The Trinity student, who played for the Ireland Under-20 team as a teenager, is a very good athlete and will play alongside Devin Toner, who extends his record as the province’s most capped player to 272 games.
Last week’s four try, star-of-the-match, Jimmy O’Brien switches to fullback with Jamie Osborne and Ciaran Frawley forming a centre partnership drawn from the youth rugby pathway. It will be interesting to see how Osborne copes in the 13 channel, up against an experienced ‘hot stepper’ in the Samoan born, Rey Lee-Lo.
Ross Byrne and captain Luke McGrath form a halfback pairing that will provide the team with intelligent direction. Ed Byrne and Sean Cronin get a chance in the frontrow alongside Michael Ala’alatoa while Will Connors returns from injury in a backrow that includes Rhys Ruddock and Scott Penny at number eight.
Cardiff play an attractive brand of rugby under Dai Young and as they showed in round three of the Champions Cup against Harlequins are capable of causing problems when given any latitude in attack.
Opportunities are rarer this season for squad members, something of which the Leinster players will be well aware, so taking those chances is very important. The handicap makes Leinster 15-point favourites, the result might be a little closer.
Cardiff: H Amos; O Lane, R Lee-Lo, B Thomas, A Summerhill; J Evans, L Williams; C Domachowski, K Myhill, D Arhip; J Turnbull (capt), R Thornton; S Lewis-Hughes, W Boyde, J Botham.
Replacements: E Daniel, R Carré, D Lewis, T Williams, S Moore, J Hill, M Llewellyn, G Smith.
Leinster: J O'Brien; A Byrne, J Osborne, C Frawley, R O'Loughlin; R Byrne, L McGrath (capt); E Byrne, S Cronin, M Ala'alatoa; D Toner, J McCarthy; R Ruddock, W Connors, S Penny.
Replacements: J Tracy, P Dooley, V Abdaladze, R Molony, M Deegan, N McCarthy, H Byrne, T O'Brien.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland)