D’Arcy returns for Leinster at the RDS
Connacht coach Eric Elwood makes two changes for his side’s game against Munster
Leinster’s Isa Nacewa back after injury. Photograph: Lorraine O’Sullivan/Inpho
The province are boosted by the return of several players who were unavailable during the recent Six Nations window including Isa Nacewa who lines out at full-back in a back three which also features Andrew Conway and David Kearney; the latter scored a brace of tries last time out against the Dragons.
Isaac Boss partners the league's top points' scorer and fellow Ireland international Ian Madigan (127 points in 17 games to date) at half back, with the returning Gordon D'Arcy, happily recovered from a foot injury, linking up with Eoin O'Malley in the centre.
Leo Cullen leads the team and partners Quinn Roux who makes his first senior appearance since the reverse fixture in November. Shane Jennings is included in a strong home-grown backrow alongside Kevin McLaughlin and Jordi Murphy, with Heinke van der Merwe joining Ireland duo Sean Cronin and Michael Bent in the front row. There are seven Academy graduates named on the bench.
Eric Elwood has made two personnel changes to the team that beat Zebre in the last round of the competition for tomorrow's RaboDirect Pro12 game against Munster at Musgrave Park (5.45).
In the backline, Dave McSharry returns to the starting line-up for the first time since the January 18th Heineken Cup encounter with Zebre. He partners Eoin Griffin in the centre. Up front, George Naoupu comes into the fray this week, joining Mick Kearney in the second row.
Ireland international Mike McCarthy is named in the match day squad and is set to earn his 150th cap for Connacht should he be called upon tomorrow evening in Cork. Connacht have won four of their last five PRO12 games including victories in their last three matches against Ospreys, Blues and Zebre. A win against Munster tomorrow would make it four in a row for the first time since 2002.
McSharry has signed a contract extension keeping him with Connacht until the summer of 2015.
McSharry joined Connacht in 2011 and since then the former Templeogue schoolboy has proven himself as a front line starter in the centre.
An exceptional ball carrier and a key component in Connacht's defensive line, McSharry has started in 16 games this season, bringing his total tally to 30 senior caps to date.
He has established himself as a dangerous runner and his attacking prowess came to the fore this season with tries against the European Champions Leinster and Premiership Champions Harlequins.
The 23-year-old earned his first Ireland 'A' cap this year when he was named in the Wolfhounds side to play the England Saxons at the Sportsground. A week later, he received a call up to the Ireland Six Nations training squad.
McSharry said: "I'm obviously delighted to sign for a further two years with Connacht. These are exciting times in the club with the squad that's being built and the players coming through, not to mention new coach Pat Lam coming on board.
"On a personal level, it's been a big year for me getting my first Wolfhounds cap and being part of the senior Six Nations squad.
"I am still improving as a player and I feel Connacht is the best place for me to continue that progress, getting the chance to play in big games consistently and being part of a squad that is really developing and going places.
"I would like to thank the departing Eric (Elwood), Billy (Millard) and Mike (Forshaw) for all the work they have put in with me over the last two years and I wish them all the best with their futures."
Leinster: I Nacewa; D Kearney, E O'Malley, G D'Arcy, A Conway; I Madigan, I Boss; H van der Merwe, S Cronin, M Bent; L Cullen (capt), Q Roux; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Murphy. Replacements: A Dundon, J McGrath, J Hagan, D Toner, D Ryan, J Cooney, B Macken, F Carr
Connacht: R Henshaw; D Poolman, E Griffin, D McSharry, G Duffy (captain); D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White; M Kearney, G Naoupu; A Browne, W Faloon, J Muldoon. Replacements: A Flavin, D Buckley, R Loughney, M McCarthy, E McKeon, P O'Donohoe, M Nikora, F Vainikolo.