Thursday 22 February 2018

New boy Hagan out to make mark

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

JAMIE Hagan and Fionn Carr will be back in blue this evening as the former Connacht duo start for Leinster for the first time since rejoining their native province.

The European champions are missing their Ireland contingent as they take on Super Rugby's newest franchise, the Melbourne Rebels, in this evening's pre-season clash at Donnybrook.

Mat Berquist starts at out-half, with fellow new boy South African Steven Sykes on the bench. Elsewhere, Joe Schmidt will take a look at his younger squad members, with Rhys Ruddock captaining the side from the back-row alongside Dominic Ryan and Old Belvedere's New Zealand-born No 8 Leo Auva'a.

The Rebels arrive in town with English out-half Danny Cipriani in their squad and, having lost to Worcester last week, they'll be looking for a win over an inexperienced Leinster side.

Ian Madigan moves to full-back, while the exciting Darren Hudson lines up on the wing.

Prop Hagan, who starts in the front-row alongside Heinke van der Merwe and Richardt Strauss, is relishing his second coming at Leinster after an impressive stint out west. And he is hoping to use his move as a springboard to bigger things.

"Mike Ross is my main competition, but he is with Ireland at the moment and that's what you want to aspire to," he said.

"Rossy's a lovely guy, we get on well enough but the competition is there and that's what you want to achieve -- to play Heineken Cup and for Ireland at some stage."

Meanwhile, Ireland's out of favour scrum-half Peter Stringer will line out for Munster tonight in their pre-season game against Wasps at Musgrave Park (7.0).

Stringer will be partnered by Garryowen's Declan Cusack at half-back, while former Springbok World Cup-winner BJ Botha will make his Munster debut. Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi and Mike Sherry will make their first starts of the campaign.

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