Leinster look to keep record against Cardiff

Matt O’Connor makes 11 changes as front-liners return to fray

Marty Moore returns to the Leinster side after a shoulder injury. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

Marty Moore returns to the Leinster side after a shoulder injury. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.

 

Cardiff Blues v Leinster Cardiff Arms Park, 2.40

Ahead of potentially season-defining European games against Castres and Wasps, Leinster are showing signs of a well-timed return to something resembling good health after an injury-ravaged campaign.

Matt O’Connor makes 11 changes from last week’s morale-boosting win at home to Ulster as a host of fit-again front-liners return.

Marty Moore makes his first start since the win in Zebre in October – Leinster sole’s away league win this season so far – when he suffered a shoulder injury. This is offset by Jack McGrath’s suspension, with Michael Bent starting, while Sean Cronin, Tom Denton and Kane Douglas also return to a revamped tight five, with Dominic Ryan also restored after passing his return to play protocols for concussion.

Only Jordi Murphy and Jack Conan, last week’s man of the match who now starts at eight, are retained in the pack.

Wingers Fergus McFadden and Dave Kearney are the only backs retained, with Rob Kearney back at fullback, while Noel Reid and Ben Te’o partner each other for the first time since the latter’s brief debut against Edinburgh at the end of October, with Luke McGrath and Jimmy Gopperth forming a new half-back pairing.

Favourite opposition

This could be tricky though for Leinster given a likely lack of cohesion in such a changed line-up. By comparison, Mark Hammett makes just three changes to the Blues’ starting line-up that defeated Newport on New Year’s Day, recalling tighthead Adam Jones, lock Lou Reed and winger Alex Cuthbert, with Gethin Jenkins captaining the side on his 150th appearance for the region. CARDIFF : J Tuculet; A Cuthbert, C Allen, G Evans, L Amorosino; G Anscombe, T Knoyle; G Jenkins (capt), K Dacey, A Jones, L Reed, F Paulo, J Turnbull, S Warburton, J Navidi. Replacements: M Rees, S Hobbs, T Filise, J Hoeata, M Vosawai, L Williams, G Davies, A Thomas. LEINSTER: R Kearney (capt); F McFadden, B Te’o, N Reid, D Kearney; J Gopperth, L McGrath; M Bent, S Cronin, M Moore, T Denton, K Douglas, D Ryan, J Murphy, J Conan. Replacements: R Strauss, J Hagan, T Furlong, M McCarthy, J van der Flier, E Reddan, I Madigan, D Fanning. Referee: Neil Paterson (SRU). Five-game form guide: Cardiff – L W W L W. Leinster– D W W L W. Last five meetings: (2012-13): Leinster 59, Cardiff 22; Cardiff 11, Leinster 26. (2013-14): Cardiff 22, Leinster 34, Leinster 34 Cardiff 20. (2014-15): Leinster 37 Cardiff 23. Leading points scorers: Cardiff – Rhys Patchell 78. Leinster – Ian Madigan 113. Betting (Paddy Powers): 17/10 Cardiff, 20/1 Draw, 4/9 Leinster. Handicap odds (Cardiff + 5pts) 10/11 Cardiff, 22/1 Draw, 10/11 Leinster. Forecast: Leinster to win.

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