Furlong back to raid 'house of pain'
Leinster 'A' have been warned to expect a hostile atmosphere at Pontypridd's 'House of Pain' at Sardis Road, with the Welsh club branding tomorrow's British and Irish Cup semi-final as their 'most important fixture for over a decade' and are expecting more than 5,000 to attend.
The prize on offer for both teams is a home final against either Bristol or Leeds, who meet on Sunday week.
Tadhg Furlong's expected return from his ankle injury is a major boost to Girvan Dempsey's squad as the coach prepares to pick his team for the last-four clash and it is hoped that the Wexford tighthead can anchor the scrum against the experienced Welsh pack.
Dominic Ryan will captain the team for the clash and he is one of a number of players who have featured for the senior team in recent weeks that should be available, with Luke McGrath hoping to build on his impressive second-half cameo against Treviso last week.
The holders go into clash on the back of their fine quarter-final win over Munster 'A' at Donnybrook earlier this month but Dempsey must now prepare his troops for a clash against one of Wales' biggest clubs at their hostile home.
He should be able to call upon second-rows Tom Denton and Quinn Roux for the battle, while Old Belvedere No 8 Jack Conan is expected to be an important part of the effort.
Behind the scrum, centre Brendan Macken could shift to the wing alongside Sam Coghlan Murray, while out-half Cathal Marsh was the hero against Munster and will be hoping to further his burgeoning reputation.
Ponty captain Dafydd Lockyer believes his side will need to be at their very best to stop champions Leinster retaining the competition they claimed in Newcastle last May.
"We beat Leinster on our own patch last season," he said. "But this game will be a totally different proposition.
"Nothing but our best will do, but with the massive home support that we are expecting, the game is there for us to win.
"The incentive of getting through to a home draw in the British and Irish Cup final is huge, but it will take a collective effort from everyone, the squad and the fans, to give us any chance of achieving that."
Pontypridd are currently six points clear at the top of the Welsh Principality Premiership despite losing to Newport on Tuesday night, in a game where they rested many of their star names ahead of tomorrow's 2.0 encounter.
Irish Independent Supplement