Tuesday 16 January 2018

Auva'a and Ryan have guile to keep Blues in command

Donnybrook, 2.30

Donnybrook, 2.30

It's first against second in Pool 1 as leaders Leinster play Welsh Premiership side Cross Keys.

Leinster have included Luke McGrath in their starting XV – the exciting scrum-half featured off the bench against Scarlets last weekend in the Pro12. McGrath is partnered at half-back by Cathal Marsh.

Up front, there is plenty of experience with Leo Auva'a and skipper Dominic Ryan included.

Cross Keys are fourth in the Welsh Premiership having won seven of their nine league games, but Leinster will be fully aware that a win against their closest Pool 1 rivals would put them in pole position to top the group.

Verdict: Leinster

Leinster – D Hudson; S Coghlan Murray, C O'Shea, J Coghlan, D Fanning; Cathal Marsh, L McGrath; J O'Connell, B Byrne, T Furlong; B Marshall, Q Roux; D Ryan (capt), D Leavy, L Auva'a. Reps: J Tracy, P Dooley, R Molony, J Conan, A Byrne, R Byrne, A Boyle.

Cross Keys – D Jones; K Baller, L Andrews (capt), J Cordy-Reddan, E Jones; S Jones, R James; R Cornock, G Price, A Lott; D Hodge, O Hodge; J Groves, S Matthews, A Powell. Reps: D Hughes, L Garrett, C Gould, T Lampard, R Tucker, R Dyer, N Trowbridge.


The Sportsground, 2.30

Connacht currently lie bottom of Pool 3, but a win at home against Bedford Blues today would put the Western province right back in contention.

Just two points separate Connacht and Bedford, who lie in second on points difference.

Coach Nigel Carolan has included Eoghan Masterson, who recently made his debut for the senior side, at No 8. Two former Garryowen players make up two-thirds of the front-row with James Rael starting at hooker and JP Cooney at tighthead. Jack Carty again captains the side from fly-half.

Connacht will be hoping that home advantage counts in their favour ahead of the return game in Bedford next weekend.

Verdict: Bedford Blues

Connacht Eagles – S Layden; D Panter, C Finn, B Murphy, S Macauley; J Carty (capt), P O'Donohoe; F Bealham, J Rael, JP Cooney; D Nolan, D Qualyer; A Browne, J Connolly, E Masterson. Reps: D Heffernan, P Reilly, U Dillane, C Kindregan, S O'Brien, C Blade, T Leader.

Bedford Blues – M Le Bourgeois; P Tapley, B Burke, O Dodge, J Short; M Atkinson, D Veenendaal; D Fearn, C Clare, Boulton; M Howard, P Tupai (capt); T Jubb, M Hankin, N Fenton-Wells. Reps: TJ Harris, N Steenkamp, T Gilardon Paz, B Gulliver, T Armes, B Calder, J Sharp.


Millbrae Stadium, 3.0

Ulster travel to bottom side Ayr hoping to build on their win over Jersey in the previous Pool 6 game. The Scottish side are rooted to the foot of the table and are without a win in the competition.

Ulster welcome back Paddy Wallace after a nine-month lay-off through injury. The vastly experienced Wallace starts in the centre and also captains the side. James McKinney starts at fly-half.

Ayr will be boosted by the inclusion of Glasgow Warriors flanker James Eddie, while Namibian-born Scotland Sevens player Byron McGuigan starts on the left wing.

Verdict: Ulster

Ayr – G Anderson (capt), R Dalgleish, R Curle, R Ferguson, B McGuigan; F Russell, M McConnell; G Hunter, F Scott, D Rae; C Templeton, S Sutherland; J Eddie, A Dunlop, P McCallum. Reps: F Gillies, G Reid, G Williamson, P Jericevich, S Wright, K Gossman.

Ulster Ravens – R Andrew, R Adair, S McCloskey, P Wallace (capt), P Nelson; J McKinney, M Heaney; K McCall, J Murphy, R Lutton; M Campbell, M Rea; C Joyce, F Taggart, A Hamilton; Reps: P Jackson, A Macklin, J Atkinson, L Dow, D Shanahan, D Busby, A Liddell.

Cian Tracey

Irish Independent

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