Ireland’s sporting landscape will take a big step towards a brighter future this evening, when the RDS welcomes 1,200 supporters for Leinster’s season ender against the Dragons.
It has been a long time coming, and Leinster have spoken all week about giving the returning crowd something to shout about.
Not only will the players be desperate to put on a show, but they will also want to send Scott Fardy and Michael Bent into retirement on a positive note.
Leo Cullen has made the sensible decision to rest Leinster’s three Lions Tadhg Furlong, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw, while the fit-again Johnny Sexton has been given extra time to recover fully from his recent head injury.
Jamison Gibson-Park returns from injury to start in a team captained by Garry Ringrose, with James Ryan in line to play his 50th game, as Fardy shifts to the back row.
“He’d play every game if he could,” Stuart Lancaster said of the retiring veteran Wallaby. “He played just as hard when all of the internationals were away. In fact, he’d play his best sometimes when those games were on during those dark days in January and February, when you have to go away to Wales or Scotland.
“He would be the guy who would galvanise the troops, and pull them all together. A father figure really. He’s a person I didn’t know.
“Obviously, I’d coached against him when he was with Australia and I was coaching England, but he’s fitted in very easily into the Leinster values.
“He’s very humble and he’s a good guy to be around. He’s very experienced for the young players.
“He talks sense and he plays flat out every game.”
The Leinster supporters will be hoping to see their side turn on the style and against a struggling Dragons outfit, Cullen’s men will be expected to do so.
Leinster – H Keenan; J Larmour, G Ringrose (capt), R O’Loughlin, J O’Brien; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; C Healy, R Kelleher, M Bent; R Baird, J Ryan; S Fardy, S Penny, C Doris. Reps: J Tracy, M Milne, V Abdaladze, D Toner, J van der Flier, L McGrath, H Byrne, C Kelleher.
Dragons – J Lewis; O Jenkins, A Owen, J Roberts, R Dyer; S Davies, R Williams (capt); B Harris, E Dee, A Jarvis; J Davies, B Carter; H Keddie, O Griffiths, R Moriarty. Reps: R Hibbard, J Reynolds, C Coleman, J Maksymiw, T Basham, G Bertranou, J Dixon, I Davies.
Ref – M Adamson (Scotland).
Leinster v Dragons, 8.15, eir