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The top two headline this weekend's AIL action in a repeat of last season's final

Cork Constitution will be missing in-form teenager Sean French for Lansdowne’s visit to Temple Hill.

Updated Mar 8th 2019, 7:00 PM

Saturday, 9 March


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated

CLONTARF (3rd) v SHANNON (7th), Castle Avenue

Clontarf look to be rediscovering their early-season form, although it did take a 17-point first-half deficit at UCD to bring the best out of them. They host Shannon for the first time in a league fixture since a 32-17 home win in 2013, which included a try from current Leinster and Ireland star Tadhg Furlong.

Two of Belvedere College’s Schools Cup stars of recent seasons, James McKeown and Ruadhan Byron, step up as ‘Tarf’s only changes to the side that won 26-17 at Belfield. Shannon were held tryless by UCC and really need a big performance on the back of four successive defeats.

Tom Hayes Shannon head coach Tom Hayes. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Tom Hayes’ young side are now only four points above the relegation zone and will be targeting a strong start in the capital, looking to create opportunities for consistently impressive backs Pa Ryan and Eathon Moloney, who have both scored three tries in their last seven Division 1A matches.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWLLWW; Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWLLLL

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 85; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 7; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery, Eathon Moloney, Pa Ryan 4 each.

Recent League Meetings — Saturday, 16 February, 2013: Clontarf 32 Shannon 17, Castle Avenue; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Shannon 17 Clontarf 22, Thomond Park back pitch.

CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), Temple Hill

A repeat of last season’s final and a possible dress rehearsal for May’s decider given the clubs’ current positions and play-off rugby prowess. Cork Constitution enter the final four rounds with an eight-point lead over Lansdowne, who have Clontarf nipping at their heels in the race for a home semi-final.

Willie Earle, who reverts to the second row, will make his 143rd All-Ireland League appearance for Lansdowne, breaking Enda Bohan’s club record. Another former captain, Ian Prendiville, switches to hooker with Greg McGrath coming in at tighthead and there are also starts for Tim Murphy, Aaron Conneely and Joe O’Brien.

Harry Brennan with Rob Jermyn Lansdowne’s Harry Brennan tackled by Rob Jermyn of Cork Constitution in last year's final. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Sean French’s selection for the Ireland U20s robs Cork Con of their best attacking weapon during the past fortnight, with the teenager scoring five tries. The table toppers are looking to make it one-all after losing 35-27 to Lansdowne in October, a cracking contest which produced nine tries on the all-weather pitch. 

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWWWLW; Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWLWLW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 108; Tries: JJ O’Neill 7; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 78; Tries: Peter Sullivan 9.

Recent League Meetings — Sunday, 6 May, 2018: Final: Lansdowne 19 Cork Constitution 17, Aviva Stadium; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Lansdowne 35 Cork Constitution 27, Aviva Stadium back pitch.

TERENURE COLLEGE (10th) v UCC (8th), Lakelands Park

Terenure College, who have five points to make up on second-from-bottom Young Munster, welcome back Leinster Academy tighthead Jack Aungier for their penultimate home game. He replaces Tiarnan Creagh in the only change to the team that narrowly lost to Dublin University.

‘Nure won by the minimum margin when they visited UCC in October, a six-try 18-17 shootout being decided by out-half James Thornton’s 75th-minute penalty. The Cork students have won four of their ten league matches since then, aided by young number 10 James Taylor’s division-leading haul of 116 points.

Jack Aungier Jack Aungier will feature this weekend for Terenure College. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

There is a swap at hooker as Harry Jephson makes way for Paidi McCarthy in the UCC front row, while out wide Michael Clune and Matt Bowen will be on the prowl for more tries, the former chasing his fourth try in five games and Bowen, a 2018 Munster Schools Senior Cup finalist with CBC Cork, scoring against Lansdowne and Shannon.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLWLWL; UCC: LLLLLLWLLWWLLW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 61; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6; UCC: Points: James Taylor 116; Tries: Ryan Murphy 7.

Recent League Meetings — Saturday, 13 April, 2013: Terenure College 33 UCC 19, Lakelands Park; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: UCC 17 Terenure College 18, The Mardyke.

UCD (6th) v GARRYOWEN (5th), Belfield Bowl

Sam Griffin, Cian Prendergast and Cillian Burke are all promoted from the bench as UCD make three personnel changes for the visit of Garryowen. Griffin replaces the injured Michael Milne at loosehead prop, while Burke slots in on the left wing with Andy Marks (seven tries) reverting to the centre.

Leinster Academy scrum half Paddy Patterson, who crossed twice against Clontarf, gets another run-out. Garryowen will have to keep a close eye on him and also tighten up their defence in the wide channels after they leaked three tries in the corner against leaders Cork Con.

Paddy Patterson scores a try UCD's Paddy Patterson scoring a try for Leinster against Southern Kings in February. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

A first win in three rounds would be a timely result for the Limerick men, who have had goal-kicking centre Peadar Collins as their only scorer over the last two weeks. Garryowen want to widen the gap between themselves and sixth-placed UCD, and also erase the four points that currently separate them from fourth-placed Trinity. 

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — UCD: WDLWLLDWLLLWWL; Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLWWLL

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 44; Tries: Andy Marks 7; Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 64; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 7.

Recent League Meetings — Saturday, 17 February, 2018: UCD 0 Garryowen 17, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Garryowen 19 UCD 31, Dooradoyle.

YOUNG MUNSTER (9th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th), Tom Clifford Park 

Dublin University can expect a red-hot reception from Young Munster, who are desperate to end a run of five defeats to the students since 2016/17. The relegation-threatened Cookies are playing much better of late, running in four tries against Lansdowne with Shane Airey’s cross-field kicks setting up two.

Trinity have won four on the bounce, including a 27-24 triumph at Shannon on their last visit to Limerick. Rob Russell’s absence due to Ireland U20 duty sees captain Colm Hogan switch to the right wing with James Fennelly, the scorer of last week’s decisive late penalty against Terenure, featuring at full-back this time.

Keynan Knox Keynan Knox could feature for Young Munster. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Another bruising battle awaits recent Leinster debutant Jack Dunne, with Munsters having Tom Goggin and captain Alan Kennedy in their engine room. Keynan Knox, the Munster Academy’s teenage tighthead, could feature again for the hosts, coming up against Ireland U20 squad member Giuseppe Coyne at scrum time.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLLLLWL; Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLLWWWW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5; Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 97; Tries: Colm Hogan, Giuseppe Coyne 4 each.

Recent League Meetings — Monday, 19 March, 2018: Dublin University 21 Young Munster 19, College Park; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Dublin University 37 Young Munster 26, College Park. 


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated

BALLYMENA (10th) v BANBRIDGE (9th), Eaton Park

The trap door to Division 2A is opening below Ballymena who, despite creating a high number of scoring chances, fell to a 27-15 defeat at City of Armagh last week. They are hoping to have Ulster’s John Andrews and Clive Ross available for this latest provincial derby in the second tier.

Three straight losses have seen Banbridge slip into the bottom two, but they are boosted for tomorrow’s trip by the presence of Ulster’s James Hume and Michael Lowry in their back-line, with the latter partnering Jonny Stewart at half-back. Another provincial player, Greg Jones, and Peter Cromie, Corrie Barrett and Robin Sinton are the changes up front.

Michael Lowry Michael Lowry of Banbridge and Ulster. Source: Alex Davidson/INPHO

Banbridge boss Simon McKinstry is expecting ‘a difficult game’ from the Braidmen who are scrapping for their lives. They had 30 points to spare when they hosted Ballymena at Rifle Park in late October. The outcome of this eagerly-awaited rematch could have a big bearing on promotion and relegation matters.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — Ballymena: LLWLLLWWWLLLLL; Banbridge: LWWWLLWLLWWLLL

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 103; Tries: Connor Smyth 5; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 78; Tries: Peter Cromie 7.

Recent League Meetings — Saturday, 23 November, 2013: Ballymena 15 Banbridge 17, Eaton Park; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Banbridge 38 Ballymena 8, Rifle Park.

BUCCANEERS (7th) v BALLYNAHINCH (3rd), Dubarry Park

The big encounters are coming thick and fast for Buccaneers who, having climbed up to seventh spot, are determined to continue on an upward curve. The midlanders have won four out of five and picked up a try-scoring bonus point in October’s 42-31 loss to Ballynahinch despite a series of hampering injuries.

Third-placed ‘Hinch are also a team in very good form, winning in three of the last four rounds. There were no additional injuries from their 13-5 comeback win over Naas, although second row James Simpson remains doubtful and fellow forwards Ollie Loughead and Aaron Hall are both sidelined.

Johnny McPhillips dejected after the game Ulster out-half Johnny McPhillips was in good form for Ballynahinch last weekend. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Co. Down outfit had Johnny McPhillips, Zack McCall and Jack Regan available last week, with out-half McPhillips landing some important kicks in very windy conditions. Backs Richard Reaney and Rhys O’Donnell had fond memories of the fourth round meetings when they scored a combined five tries against Buccs.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — Buccaneers: LLWLLLWLLWWLWW; Ballynahinch: LDWWLWWLWLWLWW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 106; Tries: Darragh Corbett, Shane Layden, Simon Meagher 4 each; Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 31; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell 6.

Recent League Meetings — Saturday, 15 April, 2017: Buccaneers 40 Ballynahinch 10, Dubarry Park; Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Ballynahinch 42 Buccaneers 31, Ballymacarn Park.

CITY OF ARMAGH (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Palace Grounds

City of Armagh and St. Mary’s College, who both returned to winning ways last week, are separated by just two points in the table. Armagh will be out for revenge after losing 27-11 to Mary’s back in October, a game in which current Ireland U20 internationals Cormac Foley and Ronan Watters both touched down.

Armagh front rowers Jonny and Daryl Morton are back in the selection mix, with the latter getting game-time for the seconds. “Our defence did us proud against Ballymena,” said head coach Willie Faloon, “but we’ll have to step up a few more rungs in the ladder to get a result against St. Mary’s.”

Willie Faloon City of Armagh head coach Willie Faloon. Source: Presseye/Kelvin Boyes/INPHO

Mary’s boss Steven Hennessy praised his side’s defensive grit after they edged out Old Belvedere last Saturday. Every point counts with teams bunching at both ends of the table. “We moved up to fifth and yet we’re three points off the relegation play-off spot. It’s a crazy league, it’s unbelievable,” said Hennessy.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — City of Armagh: LDWLWWLWWLDWLW; St. Mary’s College: WLLWLWWWLLLWLW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 68; Tries: Andrew Smyth, Neil Faloon 4 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 69; Tries: Hugo Conway 4.

Recent League Meeting — Saturday, 27 October, 2018: St. Mary’s College 27 City of Armagh 11, Templeville Road.

NAAS (6th) v OLD WESLEY (1st), Forenaughts

The Ireland Club XV coaches go head-to-head as Morgan Lennon’s table-topping Old Wesley side visit a Naas team licking their wounds after two defeats in the last three rounds. Johne Murphy’s men were 31-23 winners when the clubs met under the Energia Park floodlights in November.

Tomorrow’s victors will claim vital league points and also lift the Stephen Mooney Memorial Cup. There are five places and eight points currently between these Leinster rivals, who boast the division’s two leading scorers in Wesley full-back Rory Stynes (133 points) and versatile Naas back Peter Osborne (115).

Johne Murphy Naas head coach Johne Murphy. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Wesley’s enviable away form in Ulster shows they relish these road trips, short or long. Another successful outing would cement them as the team to beat over the final three rounds of an enthralling promotion race. Naas, though, are always tough to beat at home, especially if Murphy, Peter Hastie and Osborne can get the back-line firing on all cylinders.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — Naas: WWLWWLLLLWDLWL; Old Wesley: WDLWLWLWWWLWWW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 115; Tries: Andy Ellis 8; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 133; Tries: Paul Harte 5.

Recent League Meetings — Saturday, 9 December, 2017: Old Wesley 23 Naas 23, Donnybrook; Friday, 9 November, 2018: Old Wesley 23 Naas 31, Energia Park, Donnybrook.

OLD BELVEDERE (8th) v MALONE (2nd), Anglesea Road

Old Belvedere head coach Andrew Kenny has made five personnel changes to the side that lost 10-7 to St. Mary’s, including the selection of former England Counties U20 full-back Toby Robinson. Centre Jamie McAleese and forwards James Bollard, Ethan Baxter and Eoin Sweeney are also drafted in.

Malone went down by five points to Buccaneers, suffering their second successive defeat. The fit-again Ben McCaughey, who scored three tries earlier in the season, returns on the right wing, and the other changes are up front with Ben Halliday added to the front row and James McAllister partnering Matthew Dalton at lock.

Matthew Dalton dejected after conceding Malone's Matthew Dalton. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Belvo boss Kenny commented: “There’s nobody stretching ahead, there’s no easy games in the league. Every game is incredibly tight. We’re five points behind Malone who are second — there’s nothing in it. Our home form for the last couple of weeks has been good, we’re hoping we can get the win back in Anglesea Road.”

All-Ireland League Season’s Form — Old Belvedere: WDLLWLLWWLLWWL; Malone: WWLWWWLLLWWWLL

All-Ireland League Top Scorers — Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 105; Tries: Jack Keating 10; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 75; Tries: Rory Campbell, Peter Cooper 4 each.

Recent League Meeting — Saturday, 27 October, 2018: Malone 39 Old Belvedere 8, Gibson Park.

Andy Dunne joins Murray Kinsella and Ryan Bailey to discuss Joe Schmidt’s undroppables and how France might attack Ireland’s predictability in The42 Rugby Weekly.

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