O’Driscoll returns for Leinster but O’Brien sits out final

Ulster welcome back prop John Afoa in only change from play-off game

Brian O’Driscoll returns to the Leinster side for Saturday’s RaboDirect Final against Ulster at the RDS. Photograph:  Kieran Murray/Inpho

Brian O’Driscoll returns to the Leinster side for Saturday’s RaboDirect Final against Ulster at the RDS. Photograph: Kieran Murray/Inpho

Fri, May 24, 2013, 12:21

Brian O’Driscoll has been named at centre in the Leinster side for Saturday’s RaboDirect Pro12 final clash against Ulster at the RDS, but Seán O’Brien’s bruised knee keeps him out of the end of season finale.

Joe Schmidt has named 14 of the side that started the play-off victory over Glasgow a fortnight ago, with Ian Madigan coming in to join O’Driscoll in midfield in place of the injured Gordon D’Arcy.

O’Brien started last weekend’s Amlin Challenge Cup Final against Stade Francais, but was replaced just before the hour mark by Shane Jennings, who will start at openside against Ulster.

John Afoa will start at tighthead prop in the only change to the Ulster team that defeated the Scarlets in the play-offs.

The All Black prop missed the 28-17 victory against the Welsh side with a hamstring strain but has been passed fit for the end-of-season finale.

Commenting on his selection, Ulster coach Mark Anscombe, said: “It’s great to be able to welcome John back into the starting line-up. John and players like Ruan (Pienaar) and Johann (Muller) have been part of World Cup winning squads. When the big moments come, they are cool heads under pressure and you can’t put a price on that. When you put them together with our Ireland internationals and our excellent young players like Stuart Olding then you have a great mix.

“However, Leinster are a quality team and we have a huge amount of respect for them. They will ask a lot of questions of us and we will have to play at our very best to beat them.

“This is a massive match, a local derby and it is an occasion that everyone at Ulster is looking forward to. In recent seasons Ulster have been the bridesmaids too often. We have done our learning – it’s now time to step up and to prove that we are good enough.”

ULSTER: J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, T Bowe; P Jackson, R Pienaar; T Court, R Best, J Afoa; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; R Diack, C Henry, N Williams. Replacements: R Herring, C Black, D Fitzpatrick, I Henderson, M McComish, P Marshall, M Allen, P Nelson.

LEINSTER: R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, I Madigan, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; C Healy, R Strauss, M Ross; L Cullen (capt), D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements: S Cronin, J McGrath, J Hagan, Q Roux, R Ruddock, J Cooney, A Goodman, A Conway