Return of 1,200 fans gives Leinster’s Dragons dead rubber real meaning
Fans will return at the RDS as Michael Bent and Scott Fardy bid farwell to province
Scott Fardy will make his final Leinster appearance against the Dragons on Friday night. Photograph: Dave Winter/Inpho
Leinster’s seasonal finale is notable as much for who will be in the stands as those on the pitch. After Andrew Porter’s misfortune, Leo Cullen and his think tank have opted not to risk their remaining three Lions – Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw – while Johnny Sexton is also again rested for this dead rubber even though all four have trained fully this week.
However, as well as saying farewell to Michael Bent and Scott Fardy after nine and four years’ service (both of whom will start), Leinster will make a fond re-acquaintance with the 1,200 supporters who will be in attendance at a game for the first time here since Leinster beat Glasgow in February 2020.
This is part of a series of test events sanctioned by the Government, with the 1,200 in attendance including fortunate winners of the lottery which Leinster held amongst their official members as well as 100 frontline staff from St Vincent’s University Hospital who have been invited as guests.
Cullen makes six changes from the starting XV from last weekend’s defeat by Glasgow, with Jordan Larmour, the fit again Jamison Gibson-Park, Cian Healy, Ross Molony, Scott Fardy and Scott Penny all returning to the side.
Presumably Andy Farrell and Mike Catt will also be in attendance, not least as Harry Byrne – who must be in consideration for Ireland’s summer Tests at home to Japan and the USA – is named on the bench after being restricted to just six minutes’ playing time in almost three months.
There has been ample evidence of the effect even a modest home crowd can have in a variety of sports recently as well as the desire to bid a fond farewell to retiring stalwarts.
Leinster will also be sore about last week and they have won their last nine encounters against the Dragons dating back to the latter’s 23-13 victory at Rodney Parade in January 2016.
Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose (capt), Rory O’Loughlin, Jimmy O’Brien; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Rónan Kelleher, Michael Bent; Ryan Baird, James Ryan; Scott Fardy, Scott Penny, Caelan Doris. Replacements: James Tracy, Michael Milne, Vakh Abdaladze, Devin Toner, Josh van der Flier, Luke McGrath, Harry Byrne, Cian Kelleher.
Dragons: Josh Lewis; Owen Jenkins, Aneurin Owen, Jamie Roberts, Rio Dyer; Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (capt); Brok Harris, Elliot Dee, Aaron Jarvis; Joe Davies, Ben Carter; Harrison Keddie, Ollie Griffiths, Ross Moriarty. Replacements: Richard Hibbard, Josh Reynolds, Chris Coleman, Joe Maksymiw, Taine Basham, Gonzalo Bertranou, Jack Dixon, Ioan Davies.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)
Forecast: Leinster to win.