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Blues have edge on McLaughlin's men

ULSTER v Leinster, Ravenhill, Tonight (KO 7.05) Live RTE 2 - A Leinster win would ensure a first clean sweep by an Irish province in a season - winning all six inter-provincial clashes. This is a carrot of which many of the players may not even be aware.

The key here is the greater strength in depth of Leinster. Coach Joe Schmidt has rotated his squad once again to leave out Isa Nacewa, Gordon D'Arcy and Jamie Heaslip.

While Ulster are moving on an upward curve, in terms of their development, their only victory over Leinster in their last 16 meetings since May 2004 was a 16-14 win at Ravenhill in October 2009.

The gamble of Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin to withhold some of his first-choice players from the Galway cauldron of The Sportsground backfired in the last round.

It brought their four-game streak to a shuddering halt on the road. However, they have been beaten just once in their last 20 at Ravenhill.

McLaughlin has shuffled his deck, making nine changes from the side that fell to Connacht.

On paper, it is some way short of McLaughlin's Heineken Cup semi-final team. Hooker Nigel Brady, lock Louis Stevenson, flanker Willie Faloon and fly-half Paddy Jackson all start.

This reduces the Irish leadership legion of hooker Rory Best, second row Dan Tuohy and flanker Stephen Ferris, along with the experience Ian Humphreys at half-back.

The visitors have already ensured top seeding and a home semi-final in the RaboDirect PRO12.

Leinster's overall record or Ulster's home form will have to suffer the indignity of defeat unless these two can come to an amicable settlement with a draw. It could be that close.

Verdict: Leinster

Ulster: S Terblanche; A Trimble, D Cave, P Wallace, C Gilroy; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, N Brady, D Fitzpatrick, J Muller (capt), L Stevenson, C Henry, W Faloon, P Wannenburg.

Leinster: R Kearney; D Kearney, B O'Driscoll, F McFadden, L Fitzgerald; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), B Thorn, K McLaughlin, D Ryan, S O'Brien.


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