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Guinness Pro 14 Preview: Leinster

Following two difficult years, Leinster Rugby will be looking to get back on track this season. Their performance has not been low in the grand scheme, but for Leinster, a loss in the finals and semi-finals is not good enough.They are one of the most highly decorated teams in the Pro 14. In 17 years, Leinster has won the competition four times; last season was only the second year Leinster were not in the finals since playoffs were introduced in the Pro 14.

Squad

This year’s Leinster team is still full of amazing talent. Following last season, there were only two personnel losses of note, Dominic Ryan (Leicester) and Hayden Triggs (retired). This loss left a hole in the back row, but with all of Leinster’s talent, they can easily fill the hole. The new additions to the team will add great depth to their already amazing squad. Two fresh southern hemisphere players brought into the squad and are likely to challenge heavily for starting roles this season.

Scott Fardy- Brumbies

The biggest help this upcoming season will be from Australia with Scott Fardy. The Brumbies’ openside flanker has started over 70% of his matches the past two seasons. Fardy is also a capped Wallaby with a lot of international experience. The one negative is his age. At 33 years old, Fardy will need to be brought in to the starting XV immediately for the team to make the signing worth it.

James Lowe- Chiefs

The New Zealand full back is an amazing sight to behold. He has great speed, elusive running abilities, and is an addition of the highest order. At only 25 years old, Leinster has a good number of years to work with him. It is unknown yet where he will work into an already talented backfield for Leinster. However, it is likely he will end up either on the wing or his traditional position of full back.

Expected Starting XV

With a team as talented and deep as Leinster is, finding a nailed on week in and week out starting XV is very difficult. One great advantage is many positions allow for regular rotation of players to keep the squad rested.

  1. Cian Healy/ Jack McGrath- 172 caps/113 caps. Both players split their starts almost perfectly with 12/13 starts respectively. They make up what is a very scary front row.
  2. Richard Strauss/James Tracy- 147 caps/42 caps. James Tracy had a breakout season last year due to injuries within the team. Richard Strauss has been the mainstay hooker for a long time, so expect him to regularly start if he is healthy. Tracy, however, is a rising star within the squad so he can also pull down many starts as well.
  3. Tadhg Furlong- 67 caps. The British and Irish Lion is set for another great year with the team.
  4. Devin Toner- 198 caps.
  5. Ian Nagle/Mick Kearney- 11 caps/21 caps. Both players were even on starts last season, and with limited options at lock it is likely one of these two will regularly start
  6. Rhys Ruddock/Scott Fardy- 131 caps/0 caps. Expect Fardy to make a heavy impact with the team this upcoming season all across the back row of the scrum.
  7. Sean O’brien/Josh van der Flier- 110 caps/46 caps.
  8. Jamie Heaslip- 229 caps. The highest capped player on the team is getting higher in age, but is still playing amazing rugby.
  9. Luke McGrath- 75 caps.
  10. Johnny Sexton- 136 caps. After a fractured wrist and ruptured tendon in the Lions tour this summer, Sexton will not be back for the beginning of the season. He has promised that he will be fit to return in October. Expect Joe Carbury to fill in until his return.
  11. Isa Nacewa- 170 caps.
  12. Robbie Henshaw- 13 caps.
  13. Garry Ringrose- 39 caps. The Henshaw/Ringrose combination at center is phenomenal and did well through last season. Expect this pairing to be common especially in higher profile matches.
  14. Dave Kearney- 111 Caps.
  15. Joey Carbery/Isa Nacewa/James Lowe- 23 caps/170 caps/0 caps. The full back position has limitless options this season. With the likelihood of Joey Carbery at fly half early as well as Isa Nacewa at 11, there are very good odds James Lowe may find his spot on the field very early.

Coaching

Head coach Leo Cullen will be entering his third season with Leinster. The former Leinster player has yet to taste championship gold with his team. He will be looking to hold his team through until the British and Irish Lions players who won’t be able to return to the squad until round 5.

Cullen has done well with his team even if results have not been ideal. Both years Leinster finished the season in the top two under his tenure.

Schedule

The Leinster schedule for this upcoming season should be manageable for them. There will be some strong roadblocks along the way; an early travel to South Africa without his top star, as well as others. Leinster will have to take on Glasgow three times this season due to the Champions Cup pool. Ospreys could also cause problems for Leinster as their match will be in Wales as well. Leinster will be playing this season in the same conference with Scarlets and Ulster so it will be good to see how their series comes out.

Outlook

It’s safe to say the outlook for Leinster is similar to every year.  The only point that could derail their season is the very beginning. Fortunately, their schedule is such that their matches should not be too difficult. Leinster will definitely be in the playoffs as well as a strong contender for the Pro 14 title.

 

 

 

Pro 14 Previews:

Connacht

Cardiff Blues

Zebre

Ulster

Edinburgh

Dragons

Cheetahs

Benetton Treviso

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David Bradham

Active duty Navy, have a true passion for Rugby.
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