Monday 19 March 2018

Leinster travel in bid for successful plastic surgery

Leinster's Rob Kearney. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Leinster's Rob Kearney. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Nothing too fake in terms of Leinster's start to the season aside from their one and only spin on an artificial surface in Glasgow last month.

They not only lost four points that day but also a Lions full-back, when Rob Kearney slammed his knee into the turf.

Cardiff's Arms Park has been less punishing on all its previous visitors and, despite what happened to him, the Irishman believes that the future of the game will move further away from its muddy past.

"If it's the right sort of pitch it's the way forward," asserts Kearney. "It makes the spectacle better, your skills are better, instead of plodding around on a mucky field when you can't move your feet. But the balance to it is making sure they're playable."

While Glasgow have only begun life on their new surface, Cardiff have reported no increase in injuries since their new installation; the same goes for England, too, where Saracens lead the devotion to plastic fantastic.

And, as Kearney concedes, the product becomes more exciting; even if a few of us still pine occasionally for days when scrums spent half an hour ploughing the same few square feet of mucky terrain.

These sides have already scored 27 tries in their eight matches this season; Leinster may have made a whopping nine changes to the strong team that dismissed another play-off candidate, Ospreys, last week but the commitment to attack will not be reined in.

The home side, too, have only one ambition as Munster discovered to their cost in Cork last month when kicking erringly to a blistering three-quarters who, although moderated today, will retain the same licence to thrill.

Leinster's new lock capture, ex-Munster man Ian Nagle, is the highlight of the vast surgical scalpel wielded by Leo Cullen, as the coach eyes Munster and the opening two rounds of Champions Cup action. Devin Toner is the man rested while the front-row is replaced en masse; Jack McGrath, James Tracy and Mike Ross coming in for Cian Healy, Sean Cronin and Tadhg Furlong. In the back-row, Dan Leavy and Rhys Ruddock will start in place of Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip alongside Josh van der Flier

Fergus McFadden returns from injury to supplant Isa Nacewa on the wing, Rory O'Loughlin gets his first competitive start at centre while Jamison Gibson-Park comes in at scrum-half to replace Luke McGrath.

Barry Daly, a summer trialist, may debut from the bench.

Leinster have only lost one of 19 recent meetings with Cardiff but the home side's blistering early form may give them a slight edge.

Verdict: Cardiff

Cardiff Blues - M Morgan; B Scully, C Allen, R Lee-Lo, T James; G Anscombe, L Williams; G Jenkins capt, K Dacey, T Filise, G Earle, J Turnbull, S Warburton, E Jenkins, N Williams. Reps: M Rees, R Gill, S Andrews, M Cook, J Navidi, T Williams, S Shingler, D Fishy.

Leinster - Z Kirchner; F McFadden, R O'Loughlin, N Reid, D Kearney; J Sexton capt, J Gibson-Park; J McGrath, J Tracy, M Ross, M Kearney, I Nagle, D Leavy, J van der Flier, R Ruddock. Reps: S Cronin, P Dooley, M Bent, D Toner, J Heaslip, N McCarthy, J Carbery, B Daly.

REF - D Phillips (IRFU)

Cardiff Blues v Leinster,

Live, TG4, 7.35

Irish Independent

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