Le­in­ster re­tain­ing Doris sug­gests new peck­ing or­der in back­row

Dragons coach Jack­man will have iden­ti­fied op­por­tu­nity to catch cham­pi­ons

The Irish Times - Sports Weekend - - RUGBY - Gavin Cum­miskey

Dragons v Le­in­ster Rod­ney Pa­rade,, 5.15pm Eir Sport Le­in­ster be­ing an ex­ten­sion of Ire­land, Leo Cullen’s team se­lec­tion con­stantly cap­ti­vates the imag­i­na­tion.

Re­tain­ing Cae­lan Doris at num­ber eight sug­gests a newly-formed peck­ing or­der as Jack Co­nan (cur­rently in­jured) and Max Dee­gan (cur­rently slumped to third choice) must wit­ness the rise of an­other spe­cial tal­ent. Dee­gan will get his chance here, but Doris has the jer­sey.

Scott Penny’s bi­cep-bulging de­but against the Ospreys last week should cause anx­i­ety for Seán O’Brien, Josh van der Flier and Dan Leavy. Of course it will have no such im­pact on these es­tab­lished Ire­land open­sides. David Nu­ci­fora, on the other hand, may need to in­ter­vene and spread Le­in­ster’s back­row wealth to other prov­inces.

At scrumhalf such logic is al­ready oc­cur­ring as the Mun­ster-bound Nick Mc­Carthy does his ca­reer a favour by mov­ing to Limerick be­fore Paddy Pat­ter­son for­mally ar­rives. The 20-year-old Black­rock prodigy will re­lieve Jami­son Gib­son-Park on Satur­day to earn cap num­ber one.

Ross Byrne needs a con­vinc­ing per­for­mance at out­half – and not just the usual kick pass­ing clinic – to keep Ciarán Fraw­ley at bay.

Loose­head prop is an­other area where Le­in­ster ex­ude power, with Nu­ci­fora surely keen to un­bur­den them of Ed Byrne. And his benched twin Bryan. The Car­low RFC broth­ers are al­ready 25; both would be es­tab­lished starters in any other Pro 14 squad.

Ed Byrne, a player with enor­mous po­ten­tial, only makes his 30th ap­pear­ance in blue be­cause of his­tor­i­cally im­mov­able ob­jects called Jack Mc­Grath and Cian Healy.

Ire­land wingers

The same nar­ra­tive ex­tends to Ire­land wingers Adam Byrne and Dave Kear­ney, whose ca­reers have stalled due to form and fit­ness, but both seek to light up Rod­ney Pa­rade.

“It’s an op­por­tu­nity to show what you can do,” says Byrne. “Hope­fully push a way into the match 23 against Bath.”

Among this Le­in­ster of­fer­ing we also find the next wave of Academy grad­u­ates. Jimmy O’Brien reap­pears from Sev­ens to per­haps trans­fer the foot­balling gifts that were so im­pres­sive at un­der age for New­bridge to the main stage.

The same goes for Hugo Keenan and less so Conor O’Brien, as the in­side cen­tre has al­ready re­vealed se­ri­ous phys­i­cal prow­ess.

Scott Fardy leads the side. If the 39 times capped Wal­laby builds upon his per­for­mance at the RDS last week­end, Michael Cheika, or who­ever runs Aus­tralia next year, will have to re­call the 34-year-old.

De­spite so many omi­nous warn­ings, Dragons coach Bernard Jack­man will have iden­ti­fied a real and rare op­por­tu­nity to catch the cham­pi­ons. This mo­ment only presents it­self when Johnny Sex­ton and his lieu­tenants are be­ing held for Eu­ro­pean bat­tles.

“When we played them in Round Three we played 25 min­utes with 14 men and it was dif­fi­cult,” said Jack­man of Septem­ber’s sober­ing 52-10 de­feat when Ross Mo­ri­arty walked for bump­ing Johnny Sex­ton off the ball. The Lions flanker is back in the fold, although Jack­man keeps him on the bench.

“Our dis­ci­pline has to be spot on, and the im­prove­ment with our de­fence needs to con­tinue. It will be tested un­der the most ex­treme cir­cum­stances, and we have to be ready.”

Strong in­di­ca­tions point to­wards a Le­in­ster vic­tory, with the killer scores ac­cu­mu­lated ei­ther side of the in­ter­val, but all 80 min­utes are worth­while to track the de­vel­op­ment of Joey O’Brien, Penny and Doris.

And ob­serve the Byrne twins be­fore mak­ing Cullen’s case to keep them so far down the Le­in­ster ros­ter while other prov­inces could oil the Ir­ish sys­tem by ex­pos­ing them to Cham­pi­ons Cup ac­tion.

Like Jack­man tonight, next week pits a for­mer Le­in­ster man, Bath at­tack coach Gir­van Dempsey, against his boy­hood team. An­other fas­ci­nat­ing line-up, in­clud­ing Doris but surely not Penny, is promised. DRAGONS: J Wil­liams; J Ross er, TM or­gan,JS age, HA mos;JTovey,R Wil­liams; R Be vin gt on, R Hib­bard(c),LF air brother; R Land man, LE vans;HK ed­die, A Wain­wright, OGri ff iths. Re­place men ts: E Dee, A Jar vis, L Brown, CH ill, RM or ia rty,TKnoy le, A Rob son, A War­ren.

LE INST ER: H Keenan; A Byrne, JO’ Brien, CO’ Brien,DKe ar­ney; R Byrne, J Gib­son-Park; E Byrne, J Tracy, MB ent;R Mo lony,S Far dy( ca pt ); J Mur­phy, S Penny, C Doris. Re­place­ments: B Byrne, P Doo­ley, A Porter, M Kear­ney, M De egan, P Pat­ter­son, CF raw­ley, T Daly. Ref­eree: Lloyd Lin ton( S RU ). Ver­dict: Le inst er win.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: TOMMY DICK­SON/INPHO

Cae­lan Doris is cho­sen at num­ber eight ahead of Max Dee­gan for tonight’s match at Rod­ney Pa­rade.

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