O'Brien out in four Leinster changes


Rugby:Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has made four changes to the side that beat Ulster in the Heineken Cup final last weekend for Sunday’s RaboDirect Pro12 final against the Ospreys at the RDS on Sunday (4.0).

Heinke van der Merwe replaces Twickenham try scorer Cian Healy at loosehead prop. The latter is suffering from a dead leg and a late decision will be made on whether he is fit to take a place on the bench. In the event he is not then St Mary’s College prop Jack McGrath will be included in the replacements.

Hooker Sean Cronin and secondrow Devin Toner replace Richardt Strauss and Brad Thorn with the latter pair included in a very strong bench. Sean O’Brien is suffering from a knee problem and he is omitted from the match squad. Shane Jennings takes his place at openside flanker with Dominic Ryan in the replacements.

Leo Cullen leads a team which includes 13 Ireland internationals for the province’s third meeting of the season against the Welsh side. Kevin McLaughlin will make his 75th Leinster appearance. The backline is unchanged.

Meanwhile Ospreys coach Steve Tandy admitted after selecting his strongest available side. “It’s a huge game, a massive occasion for Ospreys rugby, and everybody is really excited about Sunday.

“Leinster are a great team. What they’ve achieved in Europe over the last four years speaks for itself, and the nature of their win against Ulster last weekend means that they’ll be full of confidence. Playing at home in front of their fans is another bonus for them and will make the task even more difficult for us.

“Previous games won’t count for a thing on Sunday; it’s all about the day and who handles the pressure the best. We know that we have to improve in certain areas, we were guilty of putting ourselves under unnecessary pressure in the Munster match and that meant we had to rely too heavily on our defence. We don’t want to have to do that on Sunday, we want to try and be more composed and look to dictate territory better.

“We have to be clinical. If we focus on our own game and the areas that we can control, then we’ll be able to compete and we’ll be in the game. It’s going to be a great day, there’s a big Osprey support traveling out to back the cause and we want to put on the kind of performance that will make them proud of their team.”

Leinster:R Kearney; F McFadden, B O’Driscoll, G D’Arcy, I Nacewa; J Sexton, E Reddan; H van der Merwe, S Cronin, M Ross; L Cullen (capt), D Toner; K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements:R Strauss, C Healy/Jack McGrath, N White, B Thorn, D Ryan, J Cooney, I Madigan, D Kearney.

Ospreys:R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, S Williams; D Biggar, R Webb; P James, R Hibbard, A Jones; A Wyn Jones (capt), I Evans); R Jones, J Tipuric, J Bearman. Replacements: S Baldwin, R Bevington, A Jarvis, J King, T Smith, K Fotuali’i, M Morgan, T Isaacs.

Referee:Romain Poite