Belfast Telegraph

Leinster are primed for fired up Connacht

The Pro12 has understandably been flying well below the radar so far this season - but there's nothing like a provincial derby to focus the minds.

With events in New Zealand dominating column inches, it would be easy to miss the fact that Connacht have gotten off to a rocket-fuelled start, while Leinster have struggled along manfully with an injury crisis.

They meet today, level on points with the hosts in third and Connacht in fourth, but with Leinster in survival mode and the westerners on a mission to make hay while the World Cup stars are away.

Joe Schmidt has received a timely boost with the return of Kevin McLaughlin adding experience to his pack.

Dominic Ryan returns to the bench, while Steve Sykes gets the nod ahead of former Connacht man Damian Browne in the second-row.

It means the Heineken Cup champions have a more formidable look than they have done in recent weeks, but Eric Elwood's men raise their game for their provincial rivals.

"They definitely think that they do," Browne said. "It's a natural reaction, they almost feel that this is an opportunity, especially the Leinster and Munster games, and they seem to always have that extra little bit and do that little bit more in the game, so maybe they do feel like they have a point to prove."

Usually in the build-up to these games it's Connacht who get to play the poor-mouth, but Schmidt has been talking up his opponents in a big way. The New Zealander is without 14 internationals and feeling the pinch and when it was put to him that Elwood was dealing with a lot of new faces, he wasn't taking it as an excuse.

"He's got 14 or 15 new players, but we've got 20 players out of the squad and there's a real contrast between what it available to squads at the moment," he said.

"I think Eric's doing a great job, I thought he did a great job last year as well. You can only work with what you've got, so if he has had to work with some shuffle arounds then he's done a pretty good job."

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