The Leinster team to face the Cardiff Blues in Cardiff City Stadium in Saturday’s Magners League clash (KO: 6.30pm) has been named. Leo Cullen will enter the history books when he becomes only the fifth player in the province’s history to reach the 150 cap landmark. In achieving this milestone, the Newmountkennedy second row follows Shane Horgan (198 caps), Malcolm O’Kelly (188), Gordon D’Arcy (183) and Girvan Dempsey (175) in Leinster’s all time roll of honour.
Cullen leads the team and is one of five Ireland internationals named in the panel for the meeting of the league’s second and third placed teams. Isaac Boss links up with Ian McKinley at half-back with former St. Patrick’s Classical School Navan centre Eamonn Sheridan making his second senior appearance – and his first start for the province – alongside Eoin O’Malley.
Isa Nacewa, Andrew Conway and Niall Morris – a try-scorer in the 21-16 victory over Aironi last time out – make up the back three. Kevin McLaughlin starts in the back-row alongside Dominic Ryan and Rhys Ruddock.
Stan Wright is named in the panel amongst a strong replacements bench for the first time this season, with the bench also including Ireland international Eoin Reddan and Scotland’s Nathan Hines.
15: Isa Nacewa
14: Andrew Conway
13: Eoin O’Malley
12: Eamonn Sheridan
11: Niall Morris
10: Ian McKinley
9: Isaac Boss
1: Heinke van der Merwe
2: Richardt Strauss
3: Clint Newland
4: Leo Cullen CAPTAIN
5: Devin Toner
6: Kevin McLaughlin
7: Dominic Ryan
8: Rhys Ruddock
16: Jason Harris-Wright
17: Jack McGrath
18: Stan Wright
19: Nathan Hines
20: Stephen Keogh
21: Eoin Reddan
22: Ian Madigan
23: Michael Keating
REFEREE: Carlo Damasco (FIR), ASSISTANT REFEREES: James Jones, Phil Connett (both WRU), TMO: Tony Rowlands (WRU)
Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game, Leinster winger ANDREW CONWAY said that the squad are prepared for another tough encounter in the Welsh capital.
ON AIRONI WIN: “To be honest we weren’t too happy with the performance against Aironi. We felt that the forwards gave us a good amount of ball and we didn’t do too much with it, so I think we really have to look to pick things up a gear for this week against Cardiff.”
ON CARDIFF’S THREATS: “Cardiff are just behind us in the table now – and I think they have a game in hand as well – so we really know we have to put it to them this week. They have a really strong back three with a few of the lads in the Welsh squad, a good back row and they’ll be pretty much strong all around the park, so it’s a really big game.”
ON PLAYERS STEPPING UP: “Yeah, it’s been really enjoyable this year getting a few more opportunities so hopefully in the next few weeks, with a few more International guys coming back and the group that’s in at the moment, that we can live up to expectations. Hopefully by the time all the internationals come back that we have them in a better situation in the league than they were when they left.”
ON RECENT FORM: “Confidence is always crucial in rugby. I think that if we can keep the run of what the lads have done in the last few months, and what we’ve done in the last few weeks, going that we can have a few good games and hopefully get a few good wins in the coming weeks.”
ON THE B&I CUP: “I have really enjoyed all of the games that I’ve played in the British & Irish Cup. It’s a really high standard so it’s not like it’s (a case of) going down a small bit from the Magners League. It’s really good that most of the time get a really good team out for the B&I Cup and are really competitive and We’re still waiting on a result to confirm that we’re in the quarter final. We don’t know who we’re playing yet but hopefully we can get good news there and kick on from that.”
ON LIFE AS A PROFESSIONAL: “It’s a small change from the Academy, the days are a bit longer whereas in the Academy you’re in and out because it gives you that time for the lads that are in College to get out and get to lectures. Once you’re in the senior set up it’s a small bit longer and probably a bit tougher, but I’m really enjoying it so far and hopefully it keeps going and I get a few more games before the end of the year.”
ON IMPRESSIONS OF SCHOOLS RUGBY: “I’ve seen a few of the senior games this year and there’s some really good players; there’s a few really good Michael’s guys, a few good Clongowes players and the obviously the Rock lads. I played with a few of them when I was in fourth year and (with) the Juniors, so I think in the next few weeks we’ll really see who’s gonna come through and who’s gonna be fighting for a place in the Leinster Academy and the Under-20’s (next year). School games really help because you’re building up to them all year but I think what you have to really turn to in the Magners is that each game, each week is like a Schools Cup final in terms of not just the intensity but the importance of it for everyone else. So they (schools games) were good preparation for what I’ve encountered this season.”