Plenty of motivation for Saints players in Leinster clash

Chris Boyd is looking forward to Saints' clash with Leinster tonight
Chris Boyd is looking forward to Saints' clash with Leinster tonight

Rugby is back with a pre-season bang at Franklin's Gardens this week.

After months of training toil, the players finally get to throw off the shackles and get stuck into an opposition side.

And what a side it is that awaits Saints on home soil this evening.

No, Leinster may not have most of their international stars, but whatever team they select, they are always capable of posing a threat.

As it turns out, they have gone for a largely unrecognisable starting 15, but they will have plenty of firepower in reserve.

Head coach Leo Cullen has named an extended bench of 13 players for the trip to the Gardens, and the list of replacements includes the likes of Ross Byrne and Dave Kearney.

Leinster are gearing up for the start of the Guinness Pro14 season, which begins a full three weeks before Saints return to Gallagher Premiership action.

Cullen's men start their league campaign away to Champions Cup pool rivals Benetton on September 28 so they will be keen to show a cutting edge against Saints.

Chris Boyd's side may not open their Premiership bid until next month, but their season starts with a Premiership Rugby Cup match at Sale Sharks next Saturday.

Consequently, they will be eager to get as many minutes as possible into men who will feature at the AJ Bell Stadium.

After all, Saints have a trophy to defend, having won the PRC last season.

And boss Boyd is looking forward to seeing how his side get on against Leinster, who they will meet in the Champions Cup pool stages this season.

"The players have been training for such a long period of time so to actually get onto the field and test the shoulders, lungs and legs is good," Boyd said.

"For some guys it's just a hit-out but for others it's a little more important because they're trying to replicate their form of last year and some young guys are trying to put their hand up and make a point.

"There are different motivations for everybody but I think there's genuine excitement that after a pretty tough pre-season, everyone's finally getting to play a little bit.

"Leinster are sending around 30 players over and they've played two games already.

"This will be one of their final hit-outs but for us it's our first so their requirement out of this game and ours will be slightly different.

"We've picked two teams and we want to give everyone from our 18-year-olds to our 40-year-olds a run.

"Everyone's going to get an opportunity to have a run-out and it's about getting rid of the cobwebs for us."

As well as taking on Leinster, Saints will also host the Premiership Rugby 7s tournament this week, with the action taking place on Friday and Saturday at the Gardens.

Connor Tupai will skipper a young Saints side.

And Boyd said: "All our youngsters are going to play, even our props.

"It's for the youngsters, we fit it into the programme and it's a good thing for us."