Match Page 2017-18 - Scoreboard WP ID: 132

Match Page 2017-18 - Last Time WP ID: 133

Match Page 2017-18 - Current Standing WP: 134

Match Page 2017-18 - H2H WP: 136

Match Page 2017-18 - Last 3 Matches WP: 142

Match Page 2017-18 - Season so Far WP:141

Preview: Leinster v Dragons

Jack Miller 23 Nov 2017

Three weeks have passed since these sides last took to the field in the Guinness PRO14, and while Leinster will be itching to return to action at the RDS Arena and keep up their chase of Scarlets, the Dragons will be revitalised from beating the Llanelli outfit in the Anglo-Welsh Cup last weekend.

What’s at stake? With Scarlets opening up a lead in Conference B, Leinster cannot afford to slip up and allow them to pull further clear – particularly with provincial rivals Ulster also one point ahead of them in the race for the top three spots.

After three league wins on the spin Edinburgh are within striking distance of Leo Cullen’s men, while Ulster will be confident of beating Benetton at home, meaning victory is vital for Leinster.

The Dragons meanwhile have a relatively comfortable eight-point gap between themselves and bottom-side Southern Kings, and so will be looking up the Conference B standings towards Benetton Rugby in fifth.

And despite making some improvements before the break, head coach Bernard Jackman will be desperate to arrest a run of three league defeats in a row for the Dragons.

Team news (Leinster): Captain Isa Nacewa returns from injury for the Boys in Blue to win his 175th cap, with a raft of Ireland internationals also coming back amongst their ranks.

Jordan Larmour starts at full back with fit-again Fergus McFadden selected on the right wing, and Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne are the half-backs.

Josh Murphy makes his first senior start in the back row having made his debut against Glasgow Warriors, and should he be introduced off the bench Richardt Strauss will win his 150th cap for Leinster.

Team news (Dragons): Ashton Hewitt returns on the wing and joins Jared Rosser and full-back Angus O’Brien, while Jack Dixon comes into the midfield.

The front row sees 20-year-old hooker Ellis Shipp make his first start for the region, whilst prop Sam Hobbs also makes his first start of the season after returning from injury and youngsters Dan Babos and Connor Edwards are set for their Guinness PRO14 debuts off the bench.

Talking points: Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster is hoping a break will have benefitted his charges going into this weekend.

“We’ve had two weeks off – a week off and then a training week,” he said.

“Dragons continued to play in the Anglo-Welsh Cup, they had a win at the weekend. They’ve got confidence and cohesion, buoyed by the victory over Scarlets, whereas we’ve had the two weeks off.

“From my point of view, you win a bit by having a couple of weeks off, you freshen people up physically and mentally, but you lose a bit by losing a bit of cohesion and match sharpness. We’ll see how it plays out Friday.”

While Dragons centre Adam Warren is adamant there is no pressure on his side away from home.

He said: “It’s a big challenge and there will be patches when we have to ride the storm. They always raise their intensity when at home.

“Leinster don’t have weak links individually but we just have to take our tactical game plan to them and be positive. There’s not much pressure on us as they are favourites.

“We’ve had a big patch of away games but have five home games in December when we really want to put a marker down and show everyone in the championship that we are changing and improving. We want to build momentum.”

Key Battle: Gavin Henson v Ross Byrne

The RDS Arena clash will see youth take on experience in the opposing No.10 shirts.

Byrne has impressed in the jersey for Leinster this term, playing a role in all eight games and starting six in the league, but Henson has been around the block and will be itching to make his knowledge count on Saturday.

Both men have been exceptional from the tee so far this term, with Henson edging out Byrne so far in terms of points scored, 60 to 53.

But this game will likely hinge on how well the youngster is able to pull the strings in a relatively makeshift Leinster backline.

Key Stat: Dragons have lost their last 28 away games, an unwanted Championship record, since beating Treviso in March 2015.

Did you know? Honours have been almost even in the last seven encounters between the two sides, with Leinster prevailing by four wins to three – however the Irishmen have won the last three in a row.

Leinster: J Larmour, F McFadden, R O’Loughlin, N Reid, I Nacewa, R Byrne, J Gibson-Park, E Byrne, S Cronin, M Bent, R Molony, S Fardy, J Murphy, J Murphy, M Deegan

Replacements: R Strauss, P Dooley, A Porter, I Nagle, J Conan, N McCarthy, C Marsh, C O’Brien

Dragons: A O’Brien, J Rosser, A Warren, J Dixon, A Hewitt, G Henson, S Pretorius, S Hobbs, E Shipp, L Fairbrother, J Davies, M Screech, A Wainwright, O Griffiths, J Benjamin

Replacements: G Ellis, L Garrett, B Harris, R Landman, B Roach, D Babos, A Robson, C Edwards

TV: TG4, 7.35pm

Match officials – Referee: Sam Grove-White (SRU, competition debut), AR1: Dunx McClement (SRU), AR2: Bob Nevins (SRU), TMO: Andrew McMenemy (SRU)

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Historical Lineup Pre Opta (sfms data) - Preview - v2

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Leinster run riot in Dublin after early setback

Jack Miller 24 Nov 2017

Leinster powered away from the Dragons on Friday evening, scoring eight tries and 54 unanswered points to stay hot on the heels of Scarlets at the top of Conference B.

The visitors got off to a great start as James Benjamin’s try put them ahead but that was as good as it got, with Jamison Gibson-Park, Isa Nacewa, Josh Murphy, and Max Deegan all crossing in the space of 15 minutes.

And after half-time, it remained one-way traffic as Nacewa doubled his tally before Jordan Larmour, Rory O’Loughlin, and a penalty try put the gloss on a resounding 54-10 triumph.

Dragons looked assured with the ball in hand early on and built the phases well until Sarel Pretorius hit Gavin Henson perfectly to ping a third-minute drop-goal through the uprights.

And the visitors had the game’s opening try shortly after; again they kept the ball well and hammered away at the Leinster defence, with finally Benjamin the man to breach the line and dive over the whitewash.

Henson nailed the extras from out wide to make it 10-0, although that advantage did not last long as Leinster scored a fantastic try.

Ross Bryne found some space to break and kicked over the top for Fergus McFadden to feed Sean Cronin, and finally Gibson-Park crashed over the line.

Byrne added the extras and the turnaround was complete in the 27th minute as Leinster came forward once again.

Dragons committed numbers in defence and with a penalty advantage, the Boys in Blue quickly flipped the ball out wide to the left flank for Nacewa to finish with aplomb in the left corner.

The hosts really were into their stride now and after Byrne aggressively kicked a penalty into the corner, Leinster smelled blood and turned the screw, with Murphy scrambling over from the resulting lineout on his first senior start.

And Leo Cullen’s charges had a bonus-point score before the Dragons could catch their breath. Jordan Larmour made the break, Byrne again elected to cross-kick to McFadden, and he and Deegan were left with a two-on-one in the right corner.

Angus O’Brien saw yellow for a deliberate knock on with 48 minutes on the clock, with referee Sam Grove-White awarding a penalty try to boot as Scott Fardy was looking to send Deegan over the line.

It took just three minutes for Leinster to score again, this time Nacewa diving over in the left corner as Dragons’ defence were stretched once more, but the score stayed at 42-10 for a scrappy 20-minute period.

But Leinster were not finished yet and there was still time for Larmour to win the race to Noel Reid’s perfectly weighted grubber-kick, with the score confirmed via the TMO, and for O’Loughlin to capitalise on Larmour’s searing break through the tiring Dragons line as the Boys in Blue ended the clash in style.

Guinness PRO14 Final 2018 Ticket Information: Fans can save up to 20% on selected tickets, and prices start at just €30 for adults and €5 for children, and can be booked via www.ticketmaster.ie

Match Page 2017-18 - Summary WP:137

Match Page 2017-18 - Match Data WP: 140

Match Page 2017-18 - Timeline WP:139

Match Page 2017-18 - Lineups WP: 135

Match Page 2017-18 - Performance WP:138