Leinster Prepared For Cardiff Crushing
Leinster travel to Cardiff Arms Park on Saturday where they face an improving Cardiff side who hold a dismal record against their visitors.
Cardiff made a terrible start to their Pro12 campaign, winning just one of their opening eight games, but have shown marked improvement in recent weeks, with three wins out of four, a run that has lifted them to ninth in the table. They suffered a home defeat to Newport over the Christmas period, but won the return fixture 11-9 on New Year’s Day.
Leinster lost three of their first five Pro12 fixtures but although their form has remained patchy, and they have slipped up on occasion, most notably two weeks ago, when they lost for the second time this season against arch-rivals Munster, they have improved slowly, winning five of their last seven including a 24-11 victory over Ulster last time out which lifted them up to fourth in the Pro12 table.
Jamie Heaslip came off with a shoulder injury against Ulster, and although he will probably be fit, coach Matt O’Connor may decide not to risk him, particularly as Leinster’s young back row seemed to cope well in his absence. Cian Healy and Sean O’Brien are not ready to return yet, but Marty Moore, Shane Jennings, Rob Kearney and Eoin Reddan could all be available.
Cardiff coach Mark Hammett changed half his side for the game against Newport and there may be more tinkering ahead of this match. The most likely change will be at winger where Alex Cuthbert could come back into the side at the expense of Richard Smith, after being rested on New Year’s Day.
Leinster have a dominant recent record against Cardiff, in fact the Welsh side have only won one of their last sixteen meetings, going back to 2007, an 11-3 victory at the Cardiff City Stadium in February 2011.
Their latest encounter came in September at the RDS Arena. Leinster led 13-9 at half-time and extended their lead early in the second half, but than had to withstand a Cardiff fight back, conceding two tries in three minutes, before securing a bonus-point win with a last minute try from Luke McGrath.
It’s also worth noting that Cardiff have a poor home record this year in the Pro12, winning only two of their six matches at Cardiff Arms Park.
Victory over Ulster last time took Leinster into the top four and eased some of the pressure that Matt O’Connor was under after his side had been comprehensively outplayed in all departments at Thomond Park.
The return of some key players from injury has obviously helped and given that they are just four points off the leaders Ospreys without having played their best rugby, they are nicely positioned to launch a sustained title challenge.
Cardiff have improved of late, but they have a terrible record against Leinster, and have lost their last three meetings by an average margin of 13.3 points. Back Leinster -5 at 10/11 in the handicap market.