| 7.9°C Dublin

Blues Have Depth To Do The Double

Close

Leinster's Jonathan Sexton and Ian Madigan, right, during squad training ahead of their Celtic League Grand Final against Ulster. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jonathan Sexton and Ian Madigan, right, during squad training ahead of their Celtic League Grand Final against Ulster. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Leinster's Jonathan Sexton and Ian Madigan, right, during squad training ahead of their Celtic League Grand Final against Ulster. Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

COACH Joe Schmidt and wing wizard Isa Nacewa, on his 126th appearance, will do everything in their power to leave Leinster with the one trophy that has evaded them.

Out-half Jonathan Sexton, too, will be determined to take temporary leave of Leinster, hopefully to return in two years, with a fourth trophy in three years.

To this end, Brian O'Driscoll has been passed fit from a back spasm to take his place in a new centre partnership with Ian Madigan, while Sean O'Brien has been forced to sit this one out.

There are half-a-dozen alterations to Schmidt's side that smashed Stade Francais 34-13 in the Amlin Challenge Cup final at the same venue last Friday night.

Schmidt will have everything in place to deny Ulster their third win over Leinster this season with a platoon of fresh foot soldiers, led by captain Leo Cullen, O'Driscoll, Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Kevin McLaughlin and Shane Jennings.

The trust the coach has shown in his squad was never better reflected in the choice of Jack McGrath, Quinn Roux and Rhys Ruddock to start against a brutish Stade eight.

The eight-day turnaround could very well be important as the PRO12 final moves into the last quarter. It is then the wear and tear just might set in.

This is where Schmidt's tinkering with selection might just pay dividends. There is increasing depth and growing experience within the ranks, now evident on the bench where Ruddock, McGrath and Roux will sit.

Mark Anscombe's Ulster have won their last five League matches, including a bloodless demonstration of their power against The Scarlets in the semi-final.

It must be still difficult for them to look back on their Heineken Cup quarter-final exit to Saracens without embarrassment. They simply went out with a whimper.

However, Leinster have lost two of their last 18 matches in Europe and the PRO12, both of them coming against Ulster. There will be no crisis of confidence for the Northern Province.

This will be a match-up between a Leinster craving the PRO12 to put alongside their achievements in Europe and an Ulster eager to win silverware to reflect their upward curve in the game.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O'Driscoll, I Madigan, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip.

Verdict: Leinster


Privacy