Leinster boost side with internationals for opener against Scarlets
Paddy Jackson returns for Ulster clash with Dragons
Outhalf Jimmy Gopperth will make his competitive debut for Leinster in their RaboDirect opener away to Scarlets. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Rugby team news: Leinster have made seven changes to their side from last weekend’s friendly defeat to Northampton for Friday night’s RaboDirect opener away to the Scarlets (7.05pm).
All seven are Ireland internationals, with five of the changes coming in the backline.
Former Newcastle outhalf Jimmy Gopperth will make his competitive debut for the province, while Darragh Fanning also makes his debut on the right wing.
Luke Fitzgerald makes his first appearance since March after recovering from injury and starts on the left wing, while there’s a new midfield partnership of Fergus McFadden and Gordon D’Arcy, with Brendan Macken and Noel Reid both dropping to the bench. Dave Kearney is named at fullback.
There are two changes in the pack, with Seán Cronin coming in at hooker ahead of Aaron Dundon, while Devin Toner is named in the secondrow in place of Quinn Roux.
Academy graduate Martin Moore will continue at tighthead, with Ireland international Mike Ross named on the bench. New signing Mike McCarthy will also start on the bench.
Former Munster academy loosehead prop James Cronin will make his first league start in Saturday’s game at home to Edinburgh at Musgrave Park.
Cronin, who won his first two caps off the bench at the end of last season, started against Gloucester in the opening pre-season game. He joins Mike Sherry and Stephen Archer in the frontrow.
James Coughlan captains the squad which includes returning internationals Dave Kilcoyne and Tommy O’Donnell, both named in the replacements.
Meanwhile, Paddy Jackson has been named at outhalf for Ulster’s opener away to Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday night in one of two changes to the side that lined out against Leicester in their final pre-season game last weekend.
Pro 12 player of the season Nick Williams is still absent after returning to New Zealand for family reasons.
LEINSTER (v Scarlets, Parc y Scarlets, Friday, 7.05pm): D Kearney; D Fanning, F McFadden, G D’Arcy, L Fitzgerald; J Gopperth, E Reddan; J McGrath, S Cronin, M Moore; T Denton, D Toner; R Ruddock, S Jennings (capt), J Murphy. Replacements: A Dundon, J O’Connell, M Ross, M McCarthy, D Ryan, I Boss, N Reid, B Macken.
SCARLETS: G Owen; LWilliams; S Williams, S Shingler, K Phillips; R Priestland, G Davies; P John, K Owens, S Lee; G Earle, J Snyman; A Shingler, J Turnbull, Rob McCusker (capt). Replacements: E Phillips, R Evans, J Adriaanse, J Ball, C Price, R Williams, A Warren, J Williams.
ULSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons, Rodney Parade, Friday, 7.15pm): J Payne; A Trimble, L Marshall, C Farrell, D McIlwaine; P Jackson, P Marshall; C Black, R Herring, R Lutton; J Muller (capt), D Tuohy; R Diack, C Henry, R Wilson. Replacements: N Annett, T Court, D Fitzpatrick, L Stevenson, S Doyle, I Porter, J McKinney, D Cave.
DRAGONS: D Evans; T Prydie, P Leach, J Dixon, H Amos; J Tovey, R Rees; A Coundley, T Rhys Thomas; D Way, M Screech; A Coombs (capt), J Groves, N Cudd, L Evans. Replacements: H Gustafson, P Price, F Chaparro, A Jones, N Talei, J Evans, K Burton, R Wardle.
MUNSTER: D Hurley; R O’Mahony, C Laulala, I Dineen, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, S Archer; D Foley, Donncha O’Callaghan; Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, J Coughlan (capt). Replacements: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, B Holland, T O’Donnell, C Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, C Bohane.