Leinster intent on maintaining winning ways
Max Deegan and Rónan Kelleher are back in the starting line-up for Cheetahs test
Rónan Kelleher returns to the Leinster side for the visit of Cheetahs to the RDS. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho
Leinster v Cheetahs, Saturday RDS, 2.30pm (Live on Eir Sport)
After a mini-break Leinster return to action for the first time in four weekends and all eyes now will be on which Leinster team will suffer the ignominy of ending the winning streak.
Unbeaten in league or cup, Leo Cullen has inserted Irish debutants Max Deegan and Rónan Kelleher, who played their bench parts in Ireland’s opening Six Nations games. Number eight Caelan Doris, who was replaced on his debut against Scotland with a head injury and underwent HIA protocols, remained with the Ireland squad this week.
Both Kearney brothers, Dave, released by Andy Farrell from Irish camp, and Rob take to the pitch against the South Africans and with Fergus McFadden on the right wing, the back three have a pronounced international accent.
It is part of the Cheetahs’ ‘European Swing’ as they face Ulster next weekend. Leading them is captain and former Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, while Johan Coetzee becomes the first player to earn his 50th Guinness PRO14 cap for a South African side.
“We are going there with the knowledge they are the strongest team in the competition, but we know if we pitch up on the day, then we will have a chance to win. And if you don’t think you have a chance to win, then you might as well not be in this competition,” said Cheetah’s coach Hawies Fourie.
It’s also another chance to see former American high school football player Roman Salanoa, who represented the USA at Under 20’s and now is in the Leinster academy. The Cheetahs catching Leinster cold? It hasn’t happened yet.
LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, J O’Brien, J Tomane, D Kearney; K Frawley, L McGrath; P Dooley, R Kelleher, M Bent; R Molony, S Fardy; R Ruddock, W Connors, M Deegan.
Replacements: S Cronin. M Bent, R Salanoa, R Baird, S Penny, J Gibson-Park, H Byrne, C Kelleher.
CHEETAHS: R Smyth; C Blommetjies, W Smith, B van Rensburg, R Maxwane; T Schoeman, R Pienaar (c); C Marais, J Dweba, A Coetzee; W Steenkamp, JP du Preez; C Massyn, J Pokomela, J Wiese.
Replacements: W Arnoldi, B Venter, L de Bruin, A Davis, G Olivier, T Meyer, L Fouche, C Smit.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)
Verdict: Leinster win