Sunday 22 January 2017

Willis making most of unlikely chance

Published 17/09/2011 | 05:00

LEINSTER scrum-half Cillian Willis had a plan at the end of last season and it didn't involve playing rugby.

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After stints with Leinster, Ulster and Connacht, the former Blackrock College boy was prepared to leave the professional game behind and move into the family business before he was handed a short-term contract at his native province. And with a deal that brings him up until only the end of October, he's determined to enjoy every minute.

"The plan after Connacht was to move home and get involved in the family business, but the opportunity arose to provide cover during the World Cup, so that's why I find myself here at the moment," said Willis, who is a cousin of Brian O'Driscoll.

"My folks have been running a nursing home for 30 years and my brother works there as well, so I was planning to learn the ropes and get a feel for the business. I'm here until the end of October, but you never know what will happen. I'm just enjoying myself while I'm here at the moment.

"The opportunity (of professional rugby) seemed to have passed me by, but I've had plenty of opportunities and maybe I haven't taken them, but I thought it was probably time to step back a bit. Now this has come and I've really enjoyed it."

John Cooney was given the nod at nine for the Pro 12 opener against the Ospreys which ended in a heavy defeat. Joe Schmidt opted for the experience of Willis for last week's win over the Dragons and he has held on to his spot for tonight's clash with the Warriors alongside Ian Madigan, who is the only fit, specialist out-half with senior experience in the Leinster squad after Mat Berquist's injury last week.

Luke Fitzgerald starts at inside-centre alongside Eoin O'Malley, while Leo Auva'a makes his first start at No 8. Kevin McLaughlin is deployed in the less familiar position of second-row with Damian Browne on the bench.

Leinster's home record extends to a 28-game winning streak in all competitions since London Irish plundered the RDS in the Heineken Cup in late October 2009, with Glasgow losing each of their 13 visits to Leinster to date.

The Scottish side are also in Leinster's pool in Europe and have a new look side, with Scott Wight, Rory Pitman and Finlay Gillies all making their first starts.

Leinster -- I Nacewa; F Carr, E O'Malley, L Fitzgerald, D Kearney; I Madigan, C Willis; H van der Merwe, R Strauss, J Hagan; K McLaughlin, D Toner; R Ruddock, D Ryan, L Auva'a. Reps: A Dundon, J McGrath, N White, D Browne, J Murphy, J Cooney, B Macken, D Hudson.

Glasgow Warriors -- S Hogg; F Aramburu, R Dewey, T Nathan, C shaw; S Wight, H Pyrgos; R Grant, F Gillies, E Kalman; T Ryder, N Campbell; R Harley, C Fusaro, R Pitman. Reps: P MacArthur, G Reid, M Cusack, J Eddie, D Weir, R Wilson, C Gregor, P Horne.

Ref -- A McMenemy (SRU)

Verdict: Leinster

Irish Independent

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