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THIS one will bring golden memories of that gloriously improbable recovery in the 2011 Heineken Cup final flooding back.

LEINSTER v NORTHAMPTON SAINTS

(Donnybrook, Tonight 7.0)

 

It is a far cry from that occasion as the Leinster players move quickly to absorb the meaning of life under their new coach Matt O'Connor.

There were solid signs of application and understanding in a could-have-gone-either-way 21-19 defeat to Ulster at a greasy Ravenhill last Friday night.

Of course, O'Connor's predecessor Joe Schmidt showed that a bad start is not always a bad thing.

Should Leinster fall to Northampton, it will not alarm the players or O'Connor unduly as long as they see an upward learning curve in the video review on Monday.

The other former Leicester Tiger, Shane Jennings, will command O'Connor's troops from the openside in the absence of official captain Leo Cullen.

There are greater things expected of prop Jack McGrath, locks Quinn Roux and a muscled-up Tom Denton, Rhys Ruddock and Jordi Murphy this season.

Interestingly, the physically formidable 22-year-old Martin Moore gets another shot at tight-head as he bids to move up to challenge Michael Bent as a legitimate back-up to Mike Ross with a tremendous prospect in Tadhg Furlong, still 20, on the bench.

Another top prospect, Dan Leavy, 19, has overcome the hamstring injuries that blighted last season to demonstrate the all-court impact he can bring as a multi-skilled back row forward. He is a real live talent in the making.

Unfortunately, it would seem Leinster have taken the prudent course of action in not rushing Luke Fitzgerald back to action until they are certain he is fully ready. That could come away to the Scarlets in the PRO12 League next week.

Ireland internationals Seán Cronin, Eoin Reddan and Fergus McFadden have been held on the bench as Aaron Dundon, Ireland U20 captain Luke McGrath and Brendan Macken are given the wriggle room to express themselves within O'Connor's system.

There is also the 16 stones-plus frame of Ireland U20 inside centre Tom Daly, a sound goal-kicker, who has the physical size and maturity to make a case for inclusion at 12.

Leinster: D Hudson; D Fanning, B Macken, N Reid, S Coghlan-Murray; J Gopperth, L McGrath; J McGrath, A Dundon, M Moore, Q Roux, T Denton, R Ruddock, S Jennings (capt), J Murphy.

Verdict: Northampton


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