WHEN GUY EASTERBY told TheScore.ie Leinster had 17 players in the Ireland squad we felt the number was too high and did some double-checking. He was right.
17 Leinster players were named in Joe Schmidt’s 34-man squad for the November Series. An injury to Declan Fitzpatrick meant Martin Moore was called up yesterday, bolstering the Leinster contingent even more. Add Zane Kirchner’s call-up to the Springbok side and that makes it 19.
Their opponents in the Pro12 this weekend, Newport Gwent Dragons, have no such problems. Two of their playing staff — Toby Faletau and Andrew Coombs — are named in the Welsh squad. Faletau may miss out on international action in November after sustaining a neck injury against Ospreys. The Welsh side have won three games so far this season and will be targeting a home win over a depleted Leinster side.
Blues coach Matt O’Connor is not confident of getting Brian O’Driscoll released for the Friday night game at Rodney Parade but can expect Joe Schmidt to free up some men. Eoin Reddan, Kevin McLaughlin and Jack McGrath seem the most likely to join up with their provinces and Ian Madigan is surely itching for another game at outhalf.
Easterby is confident that fringe members of the squad will be keen to prove their worth to O’Connor while their teammates are concentrating on Test matches. He added that Mike Ross could also play to get much-needed game time after picking up a hamstring strain against Ospreys.
Obviously, if Joe [Schmidt] feels like it would be good to give Mike a game, it would be great to have him involved… The call will be made early in the week but he’d obviously come in late as he’d be training with Ireland all week.”
Easterby has been impressed with Dragons’ start to the season, which includes victories over Scarlets and Ulster. “It’ll be a tough proposition going there and playing against a team that are building,” he said, “We’re away this weekend and have to travel to Treviso at the end of the month so it’s not ideal.
The trick is managing the period the best you can. We did that well during the Six Nations last season. We got 19 points out of 20, if memory serves me. That sort of form enables you to get into the top four, top two. These results really count at the end of the season.”
Easterby added, “It’s about the guys that have been banging on the door, waiting on their opportunities. It’s not always ideal but a lot of them have been playing in the British & Irish Cup and have game-time under their belts.”
Here is a matchday 23 Leinster could bring to Wales even without player releases from Ireland camp:
15. Z Kirchner 14. D Fanning 13 L Tuqiri 12 A Goodman 11. L Fitzgerald 10. J Gopperth 9. J Cooney 8. L Auva’a 7. S Jennings 6. R Ruddock 5. T Denton 4. Q Roux 3. M Bent 2. A Dundon 1. J O’Connell.
Replacements: B Byrne, E Byrne, B Marshall, D Ryan, L McGrath, N Reid, B Macken, A Byrne.
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