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Blues set for combat

There will be enough big guns on show to sink a battleship when Leinster combat the Cardiff Blues in the PRO12 League at The RDS this evening.

The RDS, Today 6.30 RTé 2

The pivotal contest could come on the openside where a prospective British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton will come into contact with Leinster rookie Jordi Murphy.

In one blue corner is the current Wales captain, their emotional and physical leader, a perfect specimen with a stone cold eye for the ball at the breakdown.

Just turned 24, Warburton has gone toe-to-toe with the best in the world and come up wearing garlands. He has played 52 times for Cardiff and holds 30 caps for Wales.



EVOLUTION

More than that, there is a clear and present evolution to his game. He is improving his ball-handling and intensity in the carry to become a real all-rounder in the mould of the peerless Richie McCaw.

In the other blue corner is 21-years-old Murphy, earmarked for his 12th Leinster appearance and just the second start of his senior career, his first this season.

Coach Joe Schmidt has taken the chance to rest the in-form Shane Jennings, who has been playing so effectively, in order to give former Ireland U20 Murphy his head.

It does open the door for Warburton to stamp his authority all over this game. This is why Cardiff Director of Rugby Phil Davies has pinpointed his area of expertise as critical this evening.

"We've got a big job on our hands and for me the breakdown is going to be the main area of battle. We've got to be red hot both in attack and defence," said Davies.

Thankfully, Leinster rely more on the collective effort at the breakdown rather than the world-class skills of a single operator.

Brian O'Driscoll and Gordon D'Arcy have made the dirty work in amongst fallen and falling bodies their domain. It is also a strength of Fergus McFadden.

In the front row, Cian Healy and converted flanker Richardt Strauss are mean machines there too. The message is clear: Murphy will not be left alone to counter Warburton and his cohorts.

"To win a Heineken Cup, like they have in the last four years, their strength speaks for itself," said Davies.

"They've got a pretty multi-faceted team. Their kicking game is well established, their set-piece and their ability to be direct is well established, as is their wide game.

"So, they've got a pretty much all round game. That is what you need, to be as successful as they've been in Europe over the last three or four years," added Davies.

Leinster: I Madigan; D Kearney, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, F McFadden; J Sexton, E Reddan; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross, L Cullen (capt), D Toner, K McLaughlin, J Murphy, J Heaslip.

Cardiff: L Halfpenny; A Cuthbert, D Hewitt, J Roberts, T James; J Tovey, L Williams; T Filise, M Breeze, S Andrews, B Davies, J Down, J Navidi, S Warburton (capt), A Pretorius.


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