Connacht v Leinster – Preview

Ringrose

Muldoon takes a conversion, Healy speaks out about it, the media stir the pot, and we have a MASSIVE Battle Royale of an interpro lined up for the weekend!

So in order to give you a background on this, here’s what happened to bring about this perceived MASSIVE interpro between Connacht and Leinster:

  1. 28th April 2018 – John Muldoon’s last hurrah for Connacht
    Leinster were getting hammered 45-10 at the Sportsground, Connacht just scored a try under the posts and they decide to give Muldoon the honour of taking the conversion. Nothing wrong with that eh? Sure it only added insult to injury, no harm in that…
  2. 24th September 2018 – Cian Healy interview
    Cian Healy takes part in an interview with the media and is asked to reminisce about the last time he faced Connacht at the Sportsground where the boys in blue suffered a record defeat to the home side. Following an honest assessment, he is asked what he thought of Muldoon’s conversion. It’s very important to point out that he was asked about that, Healy wouldn’t have mentioned it otherwise, it’s as if the interviewer knew a certain reaction might occur. Healy responded with “HOW DARE THEY DO THAT, IT WAS EXTREMELY DISRESPECTFUL AND WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN AWARDED THE VICTORY DUE TO FOUL PLAY.” Now of course, that’s what the interviewer wanted to hear and write about, however Healy instead gave a balanced and honest response; “Leave it to the kickers. I suppose, on a personal note, that was nice for him to finish off his career. But, it is something you have to take a bit of offence to when you’re not taken seriously.”
    Not a bad or harsh response at all in my opinion. The Irish International, B&I Lion and Leinster legend is after all entitled to his opinion, and has earned the right to feel offended.
  3. 24th-28th September 2018 – Ireland’s sports media outlets cancel all employee holiday and travel!!
    Many sports writers leapt out of their seats in outrage following Healy’s completely outrageous claims of disrespect shown by Connacht back in April. At that moment, Healy was condemned to death by mis-interpretation! They did this by paraphrasing what was said and using click-bait headlines to achieve a greater meaning and more newsworthy articles. Mission accomplished!

The best way to explain why the media has got behind Connacht in defense of letting Muldoon take a conversion is not because it was Muldoon’s final game, not because he had a such a long glittering career and deserved the honour, it’s because of their opposition. I know, might seem petty but think about it. Let’s say for example Jamie Heaslip had have got his last game at the Sportsground and it was Leinster who were letting their hero take a last minute conversion. Would that have been seen as a lovely act of respect to the player who’s had such a glittering career? Would the media have been quick to defend it if for example Bundee Aki mentioned he took offence to it? Well, it doesn’t matter really, I think we can imagine what might have transpired.

Anyway, regardless of what happened on that day in the Sportsground, it shouldn’t have a big impact on the game this weekend right? Life goes on and the ball keeps rolling, we should still see Connacht put out their best team for this fixture as they’re always up for it, and with Leinster preparing for Munster and then Europe over the next two weekends, there’ll be a much changed side to the big-guns team sheet we saw last weekend. It’s pretty much par for the course each year when Leinster travel across to Galway.

HOWEVER, after opening the Leinster Rugby app at 12pm yesterday with much anticipation, I was surprised to see that Cullen has opted for a near full strength team to take on Connacht. It’s very surprising but given the week that’s been in it and the shocking scoreline Leinster suffered back in April, I’m not overly shocked. I would imagine that Cullen wants to break the mold in terms of the win ratio we’ve had at the Sportsground over the past number of years. Also, he may feel that a score needs to be settled with a team that has become a rival of Leinster’s over the past few seasons. The proof is in the pudding, or in this case the team sheet, a squad filled with such a high volume of first choice players which haven’t made that collective trip along the M6 in a very long time, or even ever! It’s a clear sign of Leinster’s intent, they mean business this time and want to get another win on the road.

So, after the massive disrespect (tongue in cheek) shown by Connacht in the recent past at the Sportsground, Cullen has decided to be very respectful this year and send over a nice strong squad:

15. Rob Kearney (198)
14. Jordan Larmour (25)
13. Garry Ringrose (52)
12. Joe Tomane (4)
11. James Lowe (15)
10. Johnny Sexton (150) CAPTAIN
9. Luke McGrath (98)
1. Cian Healy (193)
2. Seán Cronin (156)
3. Tadhg Furlong (87)
4. Devin Toner (220)
5. Scott Fardy (24)
6. Rhys Ruddock (144)
7. Josh van der Flier (62)
8. Jack Conan (77)

16. James Tracy (69)
17. Ed Byrne (25)
18. Andrew Porter (33)
19. Ross Molony (66)
20. Seán O’Brien (116)
21. Nick McCarthy (28)
22. Ross Byrne (52)
23. Rory O’Loughlin (44)

Devin Toner has now hit an incredible milestone in his career, 220 Leinster caps , the highest of the entire squad, and also the highest caps for Ireland! He should be honoured today by being allowed kick at least one conversion during the match!! it’s a great sign of respect after all!! #letitgo

This Leinster selection is by far the most experienced and strongest we’ve sent to the Sportsground in a very long time. This time they mean business. Not that they didn’t come to play last season but remember it was a dead rubber for Leinster having all but secured their home semi in the Pro14 before kick off. Today will be different, there is competition for places in the Euro squad up for grabs and many players will be looking to impress the coaches. We’re going to get to see another Larmour and Lowe (LarLowe) combination on the wings and the formidable cool headed Rob Kearney at full back. Garry Ringrose will make his first appearance out west in the centre alongside Tomane at 12.

A very surprising but very welcome selection is at 10 where Sexton has been chosen to pull the strings and captain the side. I can’t remember the last time he played at the Sportsground, I believe it was in 2009. A lot has changed with Connacht since then and I’m sure he’ll get a massively warm welcome from the travelling support.

Luke McGrath will start at scrum half and will have Nick McCarthy on the bench to take over if needed.

Healy, Cronin, Furlong! What a front row, an unrivalled one with three incredibly talented Irish internationals, equally effective and explosive in attack and defence.

From 5-8, again, we have a rock solid pack in Toner, Fardy, Rudduck, Van der Flier and Conan. Enough said really!

The bench packs a massive punch too, one which will more than aid in keeping a high tempo to Leinster’s performance when sprung into action! The most notable is Sean O’Brien who will be in line to make his long awaited return from injury. He was interviewed recently and said he’s in the best shape of his life, it’ll be great to see what he can bring on his first game back.

All in all, this match day squad is something you’d see selected for Europe, which by the way is only two weeks away. I was pretty sure that all of the big guns would be rested this weekend in lieu of our clash with Munster next week, but clearly Cullen sees the threat that Connacht pose and want to improve on our away win ratio out west. And rightly so! Connacht’s squad packs quite the punch too and will want to prove themselves against the Pro14 and European champions.

Where the game will be won.

I think the main battle will be fought upfront in the pack and we should see a furious battle in that area. Outside of that, the centres will thrive from such battles upfront so a solid defence will be required in the 12 and 13 channels as it’ll be heavily targeted by Ringrose, and Aki for Connacht.

Both Connacht and Leinster will be wary of the threat both sides pose in attack. As a result, I predict that the game will be played quite conservatively for the first half. This game will require cool heads and patience. There’s been a lot of tension created during the week and it will be important for Leinster not to let it negatively impact their approach to the match. Get the basics right, and the scores will follow.

Prediction

For me, I always enjoy the build up for this fixture, I feel that there’s been a rivalry between these two sides for a good few years now. Apart from one or two results over the last 10 years, the encounters between both teams are generally tight on the scoreboard and both give it their all. This game will be no different, even though the build up this week has been quite unique.

Despite the quality among Connacht’s squad, I believe Leinster has far too many danger men and powerful forwards for Connacht to handle. There may be a stage in the match where the scores are tight but I feel that once the second half gets going and especially towards the stage where both benches are emptied, Leinster will pull ahead and get the job done!

Connacht 22 – Leinster 30

Match day result: Connacht 3 – Leinster 20

One thought on “Connacht v Leinster – Preview

  1. Great write up, deffo one of your best, #letitgo. Imagine Leinster let Toner take a kick??!! It’s been a long time since Connacht actually played an A Leinster so today won’t be a pretty reunion. Connacht’s jammy grubber kicking magic spell has long since worn off, that’s how they won the Pro12 in fairness, so I think it’ll be a nice easy day trip for the All Blues. Connacht 10 Leinster 38

    Like

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