O'Driscoll starts, O'Connell on the bench


Rugby – Team News: Brian O’Driscoll will make his first appearance of the season for Leinster and will partner Gordon D’Arcy at centre for the sellout Magners League showdown against provincial rivals and defending champions Munster at the RDS tomorrow.

Isa Nacewa is preferred to Rob Kearney at fullback with Ireland duo Luke Fitzgerald and Shane Horgan also in the back three.

Up front Shane Jennings joins Kevin McLaughlin and Jamie Heaslip in the backrow with lock Nathan Hines again partnering skipper Leo Cullen.

The Irish quartet of Bernard Jackman, Malcolm O'Kelly, Mike Ross and Kearney are named on athe bench.

Suprisingly Tony McGahan has opted to leave his own talisman, captain Paul O'Connell, on the bench. The Lions captain missed last week’s game against the Dragons with a niggling injury but came through this week’s training unscathed.

In all 19 of those who featured in the Heineken Cup semi-final defeat to Leinster in May feature in Munster’s matchday 22 with Keith Earls to make his first appearance of the season at fullback.

O’Connell is joined on a strong bench by Jerry Flannery, David Wallace, Peter Stringer and Ian Dowling, who has recovered from a knee injury that kept him out last week’s Munster ‘A’ win over their Ulster counterparts in Belfast.

McGahan has made two changes to the backrow, one enforced by the absence Alan Quinlan, who has a neck injury. Denis Leamy starts at blindside while Niall Ronan is back from injury to start at openside with Nick Williams keeping his place at number eight.

Elsewhere, Connacht coach Michael Bradley has made a number of changes ahead of their trip to Wales to take on Newport Gwent Dragons at Rodney Parade.

Liam Bibo, Niva Ta'auso, Miah Nikora and Conor O'Loughlin all come into the back line, while flanker Ray Ofisa is ruled out through illness.

Up front Ronan Loughney, Michael Swift, Johnny O'Connor and Mike McCarthy return to the side.

"We know it will be a tough test against the Dragons but we are anxious to bounce back from last week," said Bradley.

Leinster: I Nacewa, S Horgan, B O'Driscoll, G D'Arcy, L Fitzgerald, J Sexton, E Reddan, C Healy, J Fogarty, S Wright, L Cullen (captain), N Hines, K McLaughlin, S Jennings, J Heaslip. Replacements: B Jackman, M Ross, M O'Kelly, S O'Brien, S Keogh, F McFadden, R Kearney

Munster: K Earls; D Howlett, L Mafi, J de Villiers, D Hurley; R O'Gara (captain), T O'Leary; M Horan, D Fogarty, J Hayes; D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll; D Leamy, N Ronan, N Williams. Replacements: J Flannery, T Buckley, P O'Connell, D Wallace, P Warwick, P Stringer, I Dowling

Connacht (v Dragons): G Duffy, L Bibo, N Ta'auso, K Matthews, T Nathan, M Nikora, C O'Loughlin, R Loughney, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, B Upton, M McCarthy, J O'Connor, J Muldoon (captain). Replacements: D Murphy, B Wilkinson, A Browne, M McComish, F Murphy, I Keatley, A Wynne