Leinster set for Cardiff mini-trial ahead of South Africa ‘tour’
Leo Cullen will pick his squad to face Southern Kings and Cheetahs on Monday
Leinster’s Jordan Larmour makes his home game debut Friday night against Cardiff. Photograph: Ashley Crowden/Inpho
There’s no escaping Cardiff’s visit to Dublin for Leinster’s first home match becoming an early season mini trial. While those players who toured with the Lions will not be feeding into the campaign until round five of the Pro14, coach Leo Cullen will be selecting a band of 28 for what is being framed as a “tour” to South Africa for two weeks.
Cullen will pick his squad on Monday to face the Southern Kings for the first match in Port Elizabeth and the second against Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The squad travels on Tuesday.
A distraction to the more mundane arrival of the Welsh side perhaps but with South Africa selection hanging on the outcome and performances Friday night in the RDS, most of the squad will have to demonstrate to Cullen their case to be part of the first Irish team to fly south.
“They are a team that wouldn’t be afraid to come and play Leinster in their back yard,” says Cullen of Cardiff. “They will feel they have a genuine chance of bowling us over, even early in the season.”
Jordan Larmour lines out for his first home game for Leinster. In the club tradition of “presenting” exciting young backs in the mould of Garry Ringrose and Adam Byrne, Larmour picked up a try last week and gets his start at outside centre.
Given that Ringrose, according to Cullen, is likely to take longer than the other international players making their returns from surgery and injury, the 13 shirt is available. Strictly short term.
“He was very unlucky towards the end of last season. He would have been gearing up towards the Under-20s World Cup, and was disappointed in missing that tournament,” says Cullen about Larmour.
“But then it just allows him the opportunity that he’s back in with us a little bit earlier than some of the other guys who were away with the 20s.
“He didn’t have to do too much for his try at the weekend, but he still scored the try. He’s done well.
“You saw him during the pre-season. He played at 15 for the majority of the time but he even stepped in at 13 as well. So, on the wing or 13, 14, 15.
“He got a lot of great qualities, works hard, comes in and looks like he is someone who is excited to be in the building and wants to get better.”
There is circularity to Larmour’s first Leinster game at home and Devin Toner’s 200th. But Cardiff is important because Cullen understands the Kings in Port Elizabeth is no place to bounce back if the team falls in Ballsbridge tonight. That despite the 16 tries scored against southern hemisphere sides in the opening week.
“We actually had Gert Smal in with us at training on Tuesday,” explains Cullen. “That was the sort of message he delivered himself. He said they would be a different proposition over there.
“I was even talking to Rassie Erasmus at the launch of the tournament. He said they would be a different proposition [over there], particularly the Cheetahs when they play at altitude. Anyone I have talked to has indicated that.”
But first things first. Cullen knows it. Cardiff.
Leinster: R Kearney; A Byrne, R O’Loughlin, I Nacewa (C), J Larmour; R Byrne, L McGrath; C Healy, J Treacy, M Bent, D Toner, S Fardy, R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan.
Replacements: S Cronin, E Byrne, A Porter, M Kearney, D Leavy, M McCarthy, C Marsh, B Daly
Cardiff Blues: R Williams; A Cuthbert, G Smith, R Lee-Lo, T James; S Shingler, L Williams; R Gill, M Rees, K Assiratti, S Davies, D Welch, M Cook, J Navidi, J Turnbull.
Replacements: K Myhill, C Domachowski, D Lewis, J Down, S Bennett, T Williams, J Evans, M Morgan.
Referee: A Bracewell (IRFU)
Verdict: Home win