Champions Leinster look for high-octane start against Dragons

Jordan Larmour to start on the wing with Hugo Keenan named at fullback

Hugo Keenan has been named at fullback in Leinster’s side to take on the Dragons at the RDS on Friday night. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

Hugo Keenan has been named at fullback in Leinster’s side to take on the Dragons at the RDS on Friday night. Photograph: Billy Stickland/Inpho

 

Pro14: Leinster v Dragons, RDS, Friday, 8.15pm – Live on Eir Sport

Leo Cullen’s decision to switch Hugo Keenan to fullback with Jordan Larmour moving to the right wing provided a primary talking point at Leinster’s pre-match briefing, once an injury update on Dan Leavy and Tadhg Furlong had been put to one side. The two international forwards should be available for selection by the middle of the month.

Keenan’s superior aerial presence may have been a factor but Cullen focused on the positive elements of the swap. “It is just something we wanted to see in terms of what that combination looks like. It’s a small alteration and I wouldn’t read a huge amount into it.

“Playing on the wing probably gives Jordan a little bit more freedom to roam and it’s something that comes quite naturally to him. He’s played a lot of games on the right wing for us. Hugo has probably played a lot more at 15 coming through.”

Ciarán Frawley gets a chance at inside centre, while Rhys Ruddock and Scott Fardy return to the matchday squad, one bolstered by a very strong bench that includes former Irish under-20 captain Tommy O’Brien, who featured prominently against Ulster in a recent A interpro.

Dean Ryan’s Dragons have a robust look to their pack, particularly the backrow of Aaron Wainwright, Harrison Keddie and Ross Moriarty with Taine Basham is sure to have an impact when called upon, so too, former Old Wesley prop Conor Maguire. Nick Tompkins and Jamie Roberts offer a formidable test in the centre while the visitors are not short of pace out wide.

Cullen spoke about the acute disappointment within Leinster following their defeat to Saracens and that should be a galvanising factor as they begin the defence of their Pro14 title.

LEINSTER: H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose, C Frawley, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), J Gibson-Park; E Byrne, R Kelleher, M Bent; S Fardy, J Ryan; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.

Replacements: S Cronin, C Healy, A Porter, R Baird, M Deegan, L McGrath, R Byrne, T O’Brien.

DRAGONS: W Talbot-Davies; J Holmes, N Tompkins, J Roberts, A Hewitt; S Davies, R Williams (capt); B Harris, E Dee, A Jarvis; J Davies, J Maksymiw; A Wainwright, H Keddie, R Moriarty.

Replacements: R Hibbard, C Maguire, L Fairbrother, M Screech, T Basham, T Knoyle, J Lewis, A Warren.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR).

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