Saturday 22 July 2017

Carbery takes on Jackson in June tour shoot-out

Joey Carbery of Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Joey Carbery of Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ulster's defeat in Swansea last weekend has denied the Guinness PRO12 final day its drama, so today is about a double farewell for the locals.

This is an emasculated derby, with little at stake. Leinster are aiming to finish top of the table, but that brings little reward. Ulster face an impossible task to make the last four.

To do so, they would need to beat Leinster and score four tries or more. In turn, they would need Scarlets to beat Ospreys and deny them a losing bonus point. That would leave both teams level on 69 points, meaning Ulster would need a superior points difference - and they're currently 73 points behind.

So, they will focus on saying goodbye to a local hero in Roger Wilson and their greatest import Ruan Pienaar.

The Springbok will play through the pain barrier having sat out training all week, but the imperious scrum-half deserves a proper send-off and for all that the province have under-performed this season, the Kingspan Stadium faithful have sold out the clash and will see him off with a thunderous reception.

Leo Cullen certainly appears to be taking things seriously, fielding a strong team for the trip up the M1 as he looks to guide his charges to a second successive first-placed finish.

By picking Joey Carbery at out-half, he sets up an interesting head to head with Paddy Jackson as the two No 10s Joe Schmidt is likely to take on his summer tour line up against each other.

Carbery has been deployed at full-back for the most part recently, but this is a chance for him to remind everyone of his running abilities in the pivot position.

Outside him, he has the passing nous of Noel Reid and the game-breaking quality of Garry Ringrose, while the back three of Fergus McFadden, Adam Byrne and Isa Nacewa all bring their own threats.

For Ulster, the key battle will be up front, where they have struggled to dominate opponents.


Their set-piece looks vulnerable, with Jack McGrath licking his lips at the prospect of taking on Rodney Ah You in the scrum, and if they can't get on the front-foot then it could be a long evening for Pienaar and Jackson, who have plenty of talent outside them.

At the end of a long, difficult season and with a summer of change to come, they are determined to finish on a high.

"It's been a tough week, but I think the right solution to a tough week is to have the Leinster game. We're looking forward to that," Andrew Trimble said.

"Everything goes out the window and it's just inter-provincial rivalry. We're looking forward to meeting that and hopefully creating something positive to finish the season on.

"We need a relief and something to take into the summer to remind us that we're actually a good side and we can still do it.

"There is a fear factor there of Leinster. We know how good they are. We have felt it in the past. The results against them haven't been too bad recently but we know how good they are if they click.

"It is a big ask for us, maybe this challenge will be the making of us. There is enough character in the team to dig deep."

Cullen has named Andrew Porter on the bench covering the tighthead side of the scrum, and this will be a significant step up for the youngster, who is being tipped to travel on the summer tour.

It sums up the irrelevance of this fixture that Leinster can experiment, but the fact is there is very little on the line.

They have a home semi-final whether they win or lose. Ulster's season is almost over. Even a mood-improving win might be beyond them.

Verdict: Leinster

ULSTER - C Gilroy, A Trimble (capt), L Marshall, S McCloskey, C Piutau; P Jackson, R Pienaar; A Warwick, R Herring, R Ah You; K Treadwell, A O'Connor; R Diack, S Reidy, R Wilson. Reps: J Andrew, K McCall, R Lutton, C Henry, N Timoney, P Marshall, P Nelson, J Stockdale.

LEINSTER - I Nacewa (capt); A Byrne, G Ringrose, N Reid, F McFadden; J Carbery, L McGrath; J McGrath, J Tracy, T Furlong; D Toner, H Triggs; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, J Conan. Reps: R Strauss, C Healy, A Porter, R Molony, D Leavy, J Gibson-Park, R Byrne, R O'Loughlin.

Ref - A Brace (IRFU)

Ulster v Leinster

Live, BBC NI, 5.15

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