Leinster welcome Connacht back to the RDS on Saturday evening, but field a rotated squad ahed of the three game series.

Most of last weekend’s players are rested, giving an opportunity to the second string to make a mark. As expected, Johnny Sexton is rested, presumably to shape up against Joey Carberry down in Thomond next week.

Often these derby games feed into the Irish team management decisions about the wider squad selection. Additional spice added because this is a World Cup year and strength in depth is required to balance the high risk of injury.

Peter Dooley1Buckley
Bryan Byrne2McCartney
Michael Bent3Bealham
Mick Kearney4Dillane
Scott Fardy5Thornburg
Rhys Ruddock (Captain)6Butler (Captain)
Dan Leavy7Fainga’a
Caelan Doris8Boyle
Jamison Gibson-Park9Blade
Ross Byrne10Carty
Dave Kearney11Leader
Conor O’Brien12Farrell
Rory O’Loughlin13Godwin
Adam Byrne14Kelleher
Hugo Keenan15O’Halloran
Seán Cronin16Delahunt
Ed Byrne17McCabe
Andrew Porter18Robertson-McCoy
Ross Molony19Cannon
Max Deegan20Masterson
Hugh O’Sullivan21Mitchell
Ciarán Frawley22Horwitz
Noel Reid23Aki

Some exciting young players again on display: Caelan Doris, Hugo Keenan, Conor O’Brien, and Hugh O’Sullivan (substitute) have all impressed recently and deserve the trust being placed in them. This will be their first taste of derby games at professional level.

Connacht usually play their best rugby against Leinster. They always bring something extra to the party. Sometimes that’s hard to take, why should this be one be so tough for Leinster, year after year?

Take it as a measure of how well Leinster are doing, how firmly ahead of the westerners we are in the rugby pecking order. If they ever come to Dublin, and don’t bring their best game, then it might be a sign that we are not as good as we think we are.

Let us not forget the end of match at this fixture last year. Connacht had a chance to level the scores with a penalty within range but missable. They wanted to take the scalp home with them.

Expect nothing less tomorrow night. They want to win. They want tries. They want to put pressure on Munster, who are one place ahead of them in third of Conference A.

They have a chance. While I expect Leinster to have their usual defensive wall of blue, it is not inconceivable that Aki and co. can unlock it and get a few scores on the board.

Both sides have made a lot of changes, but arguably Connacht look stronger this week than last. Bealham and Dillane are at the heart of a strong pack, and although Aki is not starting, his presence on the bench promises that there could be excitement right up to the final whistle.

The bookies are giving the game a fourteen point spread. Leinster is playing like champions at the moment and should definitely be favourites, but fourteen points?

Connacht is having a decent spell themselves, winning their last five games in both competitions with three of those wins coming on the road. They will be eager to keep the run going.

Although we have beaten them already this season, the memory of a drubbing they gave us at the tail end of last season should be warning enough that this is not necessarily going to be a straightforward game.

Leinster to win by a score.