Monday 27 January 2020

Falcons to halt Dempsey's 'A' team

Leinster's 'A' team will be denied a glimpse of a future colleague tonight as Blues-bound Jimmy Gopperth has been left out of Newcastle's line-up for the British & Irish Cup decider at Kingston Park (7.30).

The English club had already devalued this final by putting it on at the same time as Leinster's Amlin Challenge Cup decider and now they have underlined the developmental element by resting their front-liners.

Few could blame Dean Richards for his pragmatism, however, as the Falcons' bid for a swift return to top-flight rugby in England depends on their promotion play-off final against Bedford – the first leg is next Thursday.

So, Girvan Dempsey's young side are denied an opportunity to face the best Newcastle have to offer – although former Scotland scrum-half Rory Lawson does start.

Opposite him will be rising star Luke McGrath, who excelled on his first senior start two weeks ago; he partners Cathal Marsh at half-back.

The team is captained by Leinster young player of the year Jordi Murphy, who has recovered from his hand injury and forms an impressive back-row with Dominic Ryan and highly rated Conor Gilsenan. Michael Bent starts at tighthead, with Jack O'Connell and Aaron Dundon completing the front-row.

Along with Ryan and Bent, Fionn Carr is another who might have believed that a place in the Challenge Cup squad was there for the taking, but Dempsey's task is to ensure the focus is on the job at hand.

Winning the semi-final in Limerick will have filled Leinster with confidence, but they are up against a Newcastle side who scored 255 points in six pool games and topped the Championship, so it will not be easy.

Verdict: Newcastle Falcons

NEWCASTLE FALCONS – J Sole; Z Kibirge, A Crockett, J Fitzpatrick, A Higgins; J Hodgson, R Lawson; J Hall, R Vickers, S Wilson; S Tomes, J Hudson (capt); O Stedman, R Mayhew, C York. Reps: M Mayhew, J Hallam, S MacLeod, T Tu'ifua, C Pilgrim, W Luveniyali, M Tait.

LEINSTER 'A' – F Carr; S Coghlan-Murray, B Macken, N Reid, A Boyle; C Marsh, L McGrath; J O'Connell, A Dundon, M Bent; T Beirne, M Flanagan; D Ryan, C Gilsenan, J Murphy (capt). Reps: J Tracy, M Moore, L Auva'a, D Leavy, A Griggs, J Coghlan, A Byrne.

Irish Independent

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