Leinster and Edinburgh have already experienced the ups and downs of a season in the opening month of the Guinness PRO14 campaign, and both sides will be keen to kickstart a winning streak in Saturday night’s showdown at the RDS Arena.
The hosts picked up an emphatic 52-10 win against Dragons last time out, while Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh recorded their first win of the season in Round 3 with a 17-10 victory over Connacht.
What’s at stake
Reigning champions Leinster, who currently sit second in Conference B, will be keen to claim back-to-back victories with a win over Edinburgh on Saturday to close the gap on current pace-setters Ulster.
Edinburgh are fifth, five points behind their opponents after a turbulent start to the campaign and will be determined to secure victory at Leinster to maintain momentum.
That said, the Scottish side will face a stern test having never won at the RDS arena, losing 21-13 there last season, and will instead use their 29-24 home victory over Leinster in February 2018 as motivation.
Team news (Leinster)
Leo Cullen has brought in several fresh faces for Saturday’s game, with Max Deegan making his 25th appearance as he joins Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan in the back row.
James Tracy and Michael Bent come in alongside Cian Healy in the front row, whilst Devin Toner partners James Ryan behind them.
Among the backs Fergus McFadden comes in at 14 and Jordan Larmour moves to full back, with James Lowe starting at left wing.
Dan Leavy is in line to make his first appearance of the season having returned from injury if he is called off the replacements bench.
Captain Johnny Sexton will lead the team on his 150th cap for the province.
Team news (Edinburgh)
Edinburgh’s starting XV includes just six players that started in the 17-10 victory over Connacht last weekend.
Scotland internationals Ross Ford, Allan Dell and Magnus Bradbury are among those rotated into the match-day squad.
Jamie Farndale, who will make his first appearance for Edinburgh since his debut as a replacement against Cardiff Blues in April 2012, completes the back-three alongside fullback Dougie Fife and winger Duhan Van der Merwe.
In the midfield, Chris Dean returns from injury to partner summer signing Juan Pablo Socino, who makes his first competitive start for the club. Meanwhile, replacement hooker Dave Cherry could make his debut if called upon from the bench.
🗣️ “We’ve just got to go there, spoil the party and have a go at them.”
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) September 21, 2018
On his selection, Edinburgh head coach Cockerill said: “It’s going to be a good challenge for us. We’re going to go there, throw everything at them and see where we get to.
“We pushed them close there last year and were probably unlucky not to get anything out the game. They’re a great side and had a good win against Dragons last weekend.
“It’s going to be a tough evening for us but one we look forward to. Leinster are and have the best team in Europe and we’ve got to go there and give it a bash.”
Leinster backs coach Felipe Contepomi said: They are definitely a very tough team and the key is to try to impose our style of rugby in being physical up front and trying to get dynamism and speed of game and release the backs when we can,” said Contepomi.
“Always, we need to be very accurate because they have a good set-piece, they have a good defensive structure.
“They play really well with ball in hand. They’re a very interesting team to analyse.”
Key battle: Johnny Sexton v Jaco Van der Walt
Johnny Sexton will be looking to make a mark on his 150th appearance for Leinster. After a 15-point kicking haul against Dragons last weekend, the fly-half will be full of confidence ahead of Saturday’s game.
His opposite number Jaco van der Walt converted twice to make an impact in the victory over Connacht last weekend despite replacing Simon Hickey at late notice. This time, the fly-half has been named in the starting XV and will be keen to impress once more.
Key fact: Edinburgh have not won away from home since beating Connacht at the Sportsground in March.
Did you know? Last year, Leinster became the first Celtic team to win the domestic and European Cup titles in the same season.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Michael Bent; Devin Toner, James Ryan; Max Deegan, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan
Replacements: Seán Cronin, Peter Dooley, Tadhg Furlong, Mick Kearney, Dan Leavy, Jamison Gibson-Park, Ross Byrne, Joe Tomane
Edinburgh: Dougie Fife; Jamie Farndale, Chris Dean, Juan Pablo Socino, Duhan van der Merwe; Jaco van der Walt, Sean Kennedy; Allan Dell, Ross Ford, Simon Berghan; Fraser McKenzie, Ben Toolis; Luke Hamilton, Jamie Ritchie, Magnus Bradbury
Replacements: Dave Cherry, Pierre Schoeman, Murray McCallum, Callum Hunter-Hill, Luke Crosbie, Nathan Fowles, Simon Hickey, James Johnstone
TV: Live on Premier Sports 2, eir sport 1
Referee: Dan Jones (WRU)
Assistant referees: Adam Jones (WRU), Chris Busby (IRFU)
TMO: Simon McDowell (IRFU)
Citing Commissioner: Eugene Ryan
Leinster recorded an emphatic victory over Conference B rivals Edinburgh Rugby at the RDS Arena, notching up five tries in a 31-7 win.
The reigning Guinness PRO14 champions led from start to finish, with scores from first-half scores from Fergus McFadden and James Lowe setting the pace.
And they kept at it after the break, responding to Edinburgh’s lone score by crossing the whitewash three more times.
Edinburgh lost substitute prop Pierre Schoeman late on to a straight red card as he was adjudged to have led with his elbow when taking the ball into contact, further compounding their misery.
Leinster were first to make a mark on the scoreboard when Devin Toner showed great awareness to charge down Sean Kennedy’s kick out the back of a ruck 16 minutes in.
The big man from Moynalvey did the hard yards in chasing down the rebound, pouncing on the loose ball just short of the Edinburgh line, with the supporting McFadden grabbing the ball and diving over, and Sexton kicking the extras.
They added a second thanks largely to a well-worked line-out, with Toner once again at the heard of things as he offloaded to Luke McGrath and Jordan Larmour in-turn backhanding the ball beautifully to Lowe, who dove for the corner.
Sexton couldn’t repeat the trick from the equally acute conversion, meaning that the home side had to settle for a 12-0 lead at the break.
But it was Richard Cockerill’s side who came out of the blocks the fastest in the second period.
Leinster did well initially to hold Edinburgh up on their own five-yard line after Duhan van der Merwe had broken the Leinster line, but the Scottish side moved the ball down the line, and Magnus Bradbury was able to stretch over for the score before van der Merwe further reduced arrears, kicking the extras.
The home side thought they had restored their advantage almost immediately, but for Josh van der Flier’s pass to James Lowe on the outside was deemed forward.
There was no doubt minutes later, however, when Larmour danced under the posts in heavy traffic, making things look easy, with Sexton’s conversion a formality.
And skipper Sexton made sure of the bonus point when he dummied a pass to pave a clear path to the goal-line with fifteen minutes remaining, and converted his own score, his last act of the match.
Edinburgh’s night got even worse when Pierre Schoeman was shown a straight red card after he led with his elbow on substitute Dan Leavy as the game entered its final ten minutes.
Leinster ran in a fifth and final try with seconds left on the clock as Ringrose took a pass from McFadden to run the ball in from distance with the Edinburgh defence depleted.