O'Driscoll returns for Leinster
April 20, 2010
Brian O'Driscoll will return to Leinster colours against Connacht on Wednesday night © Getty Images
Centre Brian O'Driscoll will return to provincial colours on Wednesday night as Leinster prepare for the prospect of two games in three days.
The Dubliners face Irish rivals Connacht at the Sportsground in Galway in a fixture originally postponed in December due to adverse weather with a trip to Glasgow to face the Warriors awaiting them on Friday night.
Michael Chieka's side embark on the unenviable task safe in the knowledge they hold a seven-point lead at the top of the table having accounted for title rivals Ospreys last Friday and another victory will seem them secure a home semi-final in the play-offs. In contrast, lowly Connacht's eight-match unbeaten run in all at the Sportsground was ended by Munster in their latest clash on Saturday night that left them one point adrift at the bottom of the table.
O'Driscoll returns to the starting line-up and will partner Eoin O'Malley at centre while CJ van der Linde starts in a front row which includes Stan Wright and Richardt Strauss with the latter making his first start for the province. Eoin Reddan partners Shaun Berne at half-back, with Andrew Conway named on the right wing while Shane Jennings will captain the side. Leo Cullen, Cian Healy and Jamie Heaslip are named on a strong looking bench.
"Connacht are one of the most improved teams in Magners League this year and they are in a strong position to win the European Challenge Cup - and are on the verge of qualifying for the Heineken Cup outright - so we're under no illusion as to what kind of challenge we face this week," said Chieka.
"If we bring nothing other than our 'A' game to Galway then we will struggle. Every game between the two sides is a dogfight. They probably felt that they should have won the reverse fixture at the end of the March in the RDS [Leinster won 17-15], so they will look to target us again this week as they always do."
The Connacht side shows eight changes from that which played Munster on Sunday evening with Michael Bradley casting one eye towards Sunday's clash with the Scarlets and his side's European Challenge Cup semi-final clash against Toulon a week later. Captain John Muldoon has shaken opff a groin injury but centres Niva Ta'auso (knee) and Keith Matthews (knee and ankle) and scrum-half Frank Murphy (ankle) failed to make the side.
"At this stage its a case of who is available to us," said Bradley. "In their own rights the Munster match on Sunday and the Leinster match tomorrow are big games for us and we will putting our best foot forward without putting ourselves under undue pressure in terms of losing people for the Amlin Cup semi-final.
"It would have been our preference to have it after our semi-final on the basis of resources. Magners League were co-operating with us on that, they had agreed we could play the match post the semi-final, assuming Leinster were in agreement. But Leinster were not in agreement."
Connacht: Gavin Duffy; Brian Tuohy, Troy Nathan, Aidan Wynne, Fionn Carr; Miah Nikora, Conor O'Loughlin; Ronan Loughney, Sean Cronin, Robbie Morris, Michael Swift, Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon (c), Mike McComish, George Naoupu
Replacements: Adrian Flavin, Brett Wilkinson, Bernie Upton, Andrew Browne, Johnny O'Connor, Kieran Campbell, Ian Keatley
Leinster: Girvan Dempsey; Andrew Conway, Brian O'Driscoll, Eoin O'Malley, Isa Nacewa; Shaun Berne, Eoin Reddan; Stan Wright, Richardt Strauss, CJ van der Linde, Nathan Hines, Malcolm O'Kelly, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings (c), Stephen Keogh
Replacements: John Fogarty, Cian Healy, Leo Cullen, Jamie Heaslip, Paul O'Donohoe, Ian Madigan, Simon Keogh