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Leinster young guns get their chance to impress

Northampton Saints v Leinster, Franklin Gardens, Today (KO 2.30)

To some, these minor skirmishes are nothing more than a stepping stone towards peak fitness for the start of the season.

For others, this will be the chance to make a first impression on coach Matt O'Connor and an exciting opportunity for some of Irish rugby's best prospects to show what they can do.

Full-back Billy Dardis (19), centre Jordan Coghlan (21) and flanker Dan Leavy (20), are three men who have had their track slowed by injury and the coaches' respect for their talent. They have not been rushed.

The long-term project of moving Coghlan from number eight to inside centre will be of real interest.

Forwards coach Leo Cullen was spot-on when he shared how "the result is not really that relevant for us" at the Gardens.

"It is just about how guys cope, who comes to the fore and how they handle the different pressures of playing against those quality players".

The positioning of two of Leinster's most experienced men, Isaac Boss and Jimmy Gopperth, at half-back gives direction for the try-poaching instincts of Sam Coghlan-Murray and Brendan Macken in what could be a season making or breaking season for the latter.

The basis for optimism will be located in how the front five trade in what could be the breakout year for tight-head Tadhg Furlong and a physical litmus test for a highly skilled hooker Bryan Byrne.

Indeed, his twin brother Edward will begin tomorrow on the wood where he will find company from back three firework Cian Kelleher, the Ireland U20s' best player at the U20 World Cup.

All the hope around the return of Jonathan Sexton will not be welcomed by three exceptional 10s working away underneath Gopperth and Ian Madigan with Cathal Marsh and Steve Crosbie in reserve for tomorrow and Ireland U20 Ross Byrne in the system.

Leinster: B Dardis; D Fanning, B Macken, J Coghlan, 
S Coghlan-Murray; J Gopperth (capt), I Boss; M Bent, 
B Byrne, T Furlong, B Marshall, T Denton, J van der Flier, D Leavy, D Ryan.