Schmidt shuffles his pack as Leinster target home semi-final
Victory over Ospreys would set up RDS date against Glasgow
Andrew Conway will start on the right wing for Leinster against the Ospreys. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has made seven changes to his side for Friday night’s final RaboDirect Pro12 league game of the season against the Ospreys at the RDS (7.45pm).
Leinster require a victory over the Welsh side to guarantee a home semi-final against Glasgow the following weekend.
Brian O’Driscoll has been named on the bench, with Fergus McFadden moving from the right wing to outside centre and Andrew Conway taking his place out wide.
Schmidt has changed his frontrow from the victory over Biarritz, with Jack McGrath, Seán Cronin and Jamie Hagan coming in for Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross. Healy and Strauss are both named on the bench alongside O’Driscoll, with Ross ruled out of the game through injury.
Quinn Roux comes in for Devin Toner in the secondrow, while there are two injury-enforced changes in the backrow, where Rhys Ruddock replaces Kevin McLaughlin at blindside and Seán O’Brien taking over from last week’s man of the match Jamie Heaslip at number eight .
Leinster report that Gordon D’Arcy has made good progress after his calf strain and should come back into calculations for next weekend’s semi-final.
Also needing a victory to be sure of a home semi-final, Ulster make five changes and one positional switch for their game against Cardiff Blues at Ravenhill (7.45pm).
John Afoa, Johann Muller and Iain Henderson all return to the side, while Callum Black gets the nod at loosehead ahead of Tom Court.
Robbie Diack and Chris Henry both make their 100th appearance for Ulster and will start alongside each other in the backrow.
Paul Marshall starts at scrumhalf, with Ruan Pienaar moving to outhalf and Paddy Jackson starting on the bench.
Stuart Olding, who has scored two tries in his past two games, retains his place at inside centre.
Fresh from his Lions selection, Tommy Bowe is named the left wing with Andrew Trimble, who has scored 10 tries for the province so far this season, starting on the right.
Johnny O’Connor will take his bow from Connacht in their game against Glasgow at the Sportsground, after being named at openside.
The 33-year-old Ireland international will retire from rugby after tomorrow night’s game, which is his 146th for the province.
O’Connor represents the only personnel change to the pack from the team who drew to Treviso last weekend. He is joined in the backrow by Andrew Browne and Eoin McKeon, who moves to number eight.
On his return from injury, Eoin Griffin is named at outside centre with Danie Poolman moving to the right wing.
Munster will be looking to end their season by winning their first away game of 2013 against Zebre.
Lions player Paul O’Connell has been named in the secondrow, while Sean Dougall returns to the starting XV side for the first time since March and is joined by Dave O’Callaghan and Paddy Butler in the backrow.
Ian Keatley will partner Casey Laulala in the centre while JJ Hanrahan and Cathal Sheridan form the halfback pairing.
Academy player Ronan O’Mahony gets his second league start on the right wing while Academy prop James Cronin is named in the replacements for his potential second outing also. Cian Bohane, if called upon, will make his league debut on Friday night.
Leinster (v Ospreys, RDS): R Kearney; A Conway, F McFadden, I Madigan, I Nacewa; J Sexton, I Boss; J McGrath, S Cronin, J Hagan, L Cullen (capt), Q Roux, R Ruddock, S Jennings, S O’Brien. Replacements: R Strauss, C Healy, M Bent, D Toner, D Ryan, J Cooney, A Goodman, B O’Driscoll.
Ulster (v Cardiff Blues, Ravenhill): J Payne; A Trimble, D Cave, S Olding, T Bowe; R Pienaar, P Marshall; C Black, R Best, J Afoa, J Muller, I Henderson, R Diack, C Henry, N Williams. Replacements: N Brady, T Court, D Fitzpatrick, D Tuohy, S Doyle, P Jackson, M Allen, P Nelson.
Munster (v Zebre, Stade XXV Aprile): D Hurley; R O’Mahony, C Laulala, I Keatley, J Murphy; JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, J Ryan, B Holland, P O’Connell, Dave O’Callaghan, S Dougall, P Butler. Replacements: D Varley, J Cronin, BJ Botha, I Nagle, N Ronan, D Williams, C Bohane, F Jones.
Connacht (v Glasgow, Sportsground): G Duffy (capt); D Poolman, E Griffin, B Murphy, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O’Connor, E McKeon. Replacements: A Flavin, R Ah You, JP Cooney, M Kearney, J Muldoon, M Fifita, P O’Donohoe, M Nikora.
All matches kick-off at 7.45pm on Friday night.