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Connacht wouldn’t have had too much time to enjoy their win against Munster last weekend as preparations for the arrival of Leinster would have dominated the thoughts of coaches and players this week. Arguably the toughest test in the URC but also the greatest win if you can pull it off.
Leinster have won all four matches they have played in United Rugby Championship this season and sit fifteen points ahead of Connacht. Bar an early scare to Zebre, Leinster have looked polished, moving through the gears, and getting into their rhythm.
Leinster have scored more tries than any other team with an impressive twenty-one, crossing the whitewash an average of 5.25 times per match.
Leinster have only scored two penalty goals which shows how aggressive their mindset has been.
They have confidence in themselves that when they get into the opposing half, they believe they will come away with at least five points.
Leinster have had great success against Connacht having lost just one of their last eight fixtures against Connacht in the Championship, coming last year at the RDS Arena in January 2021. While Connacht have been competitive in some of those games, there has also been games where Leinster were in a different league and put up some big scores.
Connacht have won their last two fixtures at the Sportsgrounds and will be looking to make it three on the bounce.
Connacht may have won six of their last eight matches at home, but their most recent loss in Galway was against Leinster.
Confidence playing on their new surface should be higher with every week of training they get under their belt, and they should be able to use it to their advantage. Knowing how a ball reacts on kicks is a huge bonus and the likes of Jack Carty and Conor Fitzgerald will be looking to pin Leinster back at every possible opportunity.
Connacht’s dominance in the set piece last week will have surely added a pep to the step of the pack. Leinster’s pack is of international standard and if they bully you physically then you are going to concede a big score. If Connacht can hold their own against Leinster’s pack, then confidence will be at an all-time high and it can be a real catalyst for the rest of the season.
Connacht might look at how many points Leinster conceded against Zebre and last week against the Sharks and see ways to score on this team. Leinster conceded twenty-nine points against Zebre on the opening weekend and last week shipped thirty-four points to the Sharks. Scoring against Leinster is possible you just need to take the opportunities when they arrive.
Connacht have mauled relatively little this season, only setting up to drive on 15 occasions. However, their ability to retain possession from the maul has been unparalleled in the league: they are yet to lose the ball in a maul that they’ve set up. So let’s hope for Connacht to use it wisely on Friday.
Commenting on the team selection, Director of Rugby Andy Friend says:
“Last Fridays victory over Munster saw a much improved overall performance by us that is far more aligned to what we know we’re capable of as a team. We now have to use that as a springboard for the rest of the season, and tomorrow is another brilliant opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best in Europe
Leinster have lost just one of their last eight fixtures against Connacht in the Championship: 24-35 at the RDS Arena in January 2021.
Connacht have not won successive matches against fellow Irish provinces since beating Munster and Ulster in 2017
There is no denying how big of a challenge a win this Friday is. Leinster look like they are getting better every week and while Connacht got a big win last weekend, it was still only their first win and their first pleasing performance so far.
Discipline will be huge. Connacht are still giving away too many penalties and with Frank Murphy in charge of this game Friday, you don’t want to give him too many opportunities to blow his whistle. Leinster will love to win easy penalties and pile on the pressure so its key for Connacht to stay on Franks good side.
Connacht will need to improve greatly from the Munster game if they are to have a punchers chance. In recent seasons when Connacht have gotten a result against Leinster it needed as close to a flawless performance as possible to do so.
With that being said, if the set piece can once again be a strong point for Connacht, then Connacht have a real chance.
Having that consistent platform is something Connacht are not used to especially against teams of Leinster’s standard. With the talent Connacht have in the backs, if you create enough entries into the opposing 22 then this team will score points.
Connacht fans would take a losing bonus point if you offered it to them now.
Leinster was not an expected win when Connacht looked at their schedule so any points at all is a bonus. However, with confidence high and an invigorated pack, don’t be too surprised if Andy Friend’s men upset the odds.
15. Conor Fitzgerald (56)
14. John Porch (63)
13. Byron Ralston (4)
12. David Hawkshaw (4)
11. Mack Hansen (17)
10. Jack Carty (181) (C)
9. Colm Reilly (11)
1. Peter Dooley (4)
2. Dave Heffernan (169)
3. Finlay Bealham (177)
4. Niall Murray (38)
5. Gavin Thornbury (66)
6. Josh Murphy (4)
7. Shamus Hurley-Langton (4)
8. Paul Boyle (76)
16. Grant Stewart (2)
17. Denis Buckley (212)
18. Jack Aungier (35)
19. Oisín Dowling (28)
20. Conor Oliver (44)
21. Caolin Blade (152)
22. Tom Daly (64)
23. Ciaran Booth (1)
Leinster Rugby (caps in brackets):
15. Jimmy O’Brien (56)
14. Liam Turner (6)
13. Garry Ringrose (105) CAPTAIN
12. Charlie Ngatai (4)
11. Rob Russell (7)
10. Ross Byrne (132)
9. Cormac Foley (7)
1. Ed Byrne (88)
2. Dan Sheehan (32)
3. Tadhg Furlong (127)
4. Ross Molony (143)
5. James Ryan (60)
6. Caelan Doris (56)
7. Josh van der Flier (116)
8. Jack Conan (118)
16. John McKee (5)
17. Andrew Porter (94)
18. Michael Ala’alatoa (29)
19. Joe McCarthy (12)
20. Martin Moloney (8)
21. Nick McCarthy (48)
22. Ciarán Frawley (58)
23. Robbie Henshaw (71)
Referee: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
It’s always a good guide for fans, bookies expect Leinster to win by 9pts.