Belfast Telegraph

Leinster all set to fight for jerseys

David Kelly

By David Kelly

These days, Leinster's biggest rivals are housed within.

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Whether it is the fringe players grappling desperately for a sustained presence on the European days that really matter or the coaching staff's ongoing battle to quell even the merest sniff of complacency, there is hardly any dip in their relentless quest for perfection.

Connacht will arrive for today's 5.30pm start with a severely weakened squad, out of kilter and out of form.

But Leinster know that just a year ago here they were put to the pin of their collar before emerging with a win thanks to Andrew Porter's late try following 41 typically well controlled phases.

Only a fortnight ago against Ulster, Leinster were brilliant for a half and then brutal for another; they remain defiantly unbeaten and will stay so after this evening when they should replicate their early-season Galway romp.

Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Tadhg Furlong and James Ryan are amongst the Irish internationals who will feature for the first time in this interprovincial mini-series.

Leinster switch 14 players from their Thomond Park win; only Will Connors maintains his place, a rare hat-trick of starts will be compiled by the breakthrough openside when he takes to the field this evening.

The back-row is an area of fascinating intrigue now; with Dan Leavy and Jack Conan marked absent, Connors, as well as duelling eights Max Deegan and Caolan Doris, have come to the fore.

Captain Rhys Ruddock is in a unique position to survey the transformed landscape; he is one who knows that with each step they take, his own future may be imperilled.

For Connacht, ex-Roscommon minor footballer Niall Murray starts at lock.

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