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Dublin: 13°C Sunday 16 May 2021
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O'Connor excited to see 'incredibly dangerous' Fitzgerald at 13 for Leinster

The Australian head coach has gone for Isaac Boss’ physicality at scrum-half.

O'Connor tells Luke Fitzgerald exactly what he's looking for this weekend.
O'Connor tells Luke Fitzgerald exactly what he's looking for this weekend.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

IT TOOK AN injury to Gordon D’Arcy to push him towards making the call, but Matt O’Connor is excited to see Luke Fitzgerald wearing 13 for Leinster outside Ian Madigan this weekend.

The Australian head coach has made a total of five changes to his starting team ahead of tomorrow evening’s clash with Harlequins in Dublin [KO 19.45], four of those alterations to personnel.

Most notable is Fitzgerald’s move into the centre a week after his comeback on the left wing in Sunday’s defeat to ‘Quins in London. The 27-year-old has been plagued by injury again this season, but his groin/abdominal issues appear to be settled for now.

“He’s incredibly dangerous with the ball, he’s physical, he understands,” said O’Connor this afternoon in UCD when asked what Fitzgerald can bring at 13.

He’s played a hell of a lot of top-class rugby so he knows the dynamics. He’s going to be a little bit rusty; he hasn’t played a lot of rugby there in the last little bit, so we’ll be trying to make sure that the guys in and around that are doing their bits and pieces.”

In that regard, Ian Madigan will have an important part to play inside Fitzgerald, the other half of a partnership that promises real attacking quality. The thought of Fitzgerald running clever lines off Madigan’s sharp passing game is one strong reason to look forward to tomorrow’s Pool 2 clash.

“It’s untested [as a centre pairing], but Luke’s played a lot of rugby there as a kid,” said O’Connor. “He hasn’t played a lot of rugby there recently, but he’s trained very well there this week. It’s a little bit of a sight unseen, but we’ll know a little bit more after the weekend.”

Isaac Boss Isaac Boss comes into the team at scrum-half, although Eoin Reddan will be used off the bench late on. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

O’Connor indicated that D’Arcy had strained his calf in training last week, worsening the problem during the loss to ‘Quins at the Twickenham Stoop. Leinster expect the veteran to be back in “one or two weeks.”

The other changes O’Connor has made have little to do with injury. Zane Kirchner benefits from Fitzgerald’s shift into midfield as he comes in on the wing despite some inconsistent recent form.

Elsewhere, Isaac Boss’ physical strength sees him get the nod over Eoin Reddan, who was off form in London. Kane Douglas replaces Mike McCarthy in the second row and Dominic Ryan returns to take over from Jordi Murphy in the back row.

The physicality of it at breakdown and the bits and pieces that are the biggest strengths in Bossy’s game are going to be important, certainly in the first 30-40 minutes of it,” said O’Connor of Boss’ inclusion from the start.

The change-up that we get with Eoin on the field for the last half an hour will be very, very important.”

As for Ryan’s inclusion, O’Connor points out that it was simply a case of form being rewarded:

“Dominic’s been fantastic for us, he’s been as good a forward as we’ve had all year and it was that opportunity to freshen it up with a short turnaround. It will give us a little bit of thrust in that position hopefully.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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