Sean O’Brien back as Leinster aim to seal top seed spot with victory over Edinburgh
Visitors arrive following a 55-12 mauling by Munster last week
Sean O’Brien: will make his first appearance since he suffered a shoulder injury against Ulster in December when Leinster take on Edinburgh at the RDS Photo: Donall Farmer/Inpho
There was some scepticism when Leinster coach Matt O’Connor said recently that Sean O’Brien was hoping to be available for Ireland’s tour to Argentina. In his eight changes for Edinburgh’s visit today, O’Brien joins Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip in a highly mobile backrow as Leinster face the team Munster put 50 points on last week.
With Paul O’Connell on Wednesday expressing an eagerness to travel for the two June Test matches, it’s a chance for players to keep on board the bus as it were, with a coach who is fearless about making changes. Joe Schmidt will also keep an eye on the closing scuffles of the league but Argentina is the final chance to impress at international level before the November Series.
In that context, players are looking for their tickets with limited time as Edinburgh arrive at the RDS still addled from Munster’s 55-12 mauling in Meggetland. That win was only the fifth 50-point tally of the entire season following Munster’s 54-13 win over Cardiff, Osprey’s 75-7 defeat of Zebre, Ulster’s 58-12 walloping of Connacht and Leinster’s own dissection of Treviso 62-7 in the RDS last month.
It’s well to remember Edinburgh beat Leinster 11-6 when the sides met in Murrayfield in December, when just five of today’s starting team featured. Brian O’Driscoll and captain Leo Cullen, who are having more of a farewell than a goodbye tonight, were two that played in that game.
O’Brien makes his first appearance since a shoulder injury against Ulster in December, when his season was thought over. But his recovery is ahead of schedule and timely too.
There’s a completely new front row with Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross, internationals Cian Healy and Martin Moore on the bench. Rob Kearney makes space in a back line reshuffle with Fergus McFadden again fit and on the right wing, Zane Kirchner dropping to fullback.
Jimmy Gopperth comes in for his 27th game, Ian Madigan reverting to a prize bench.
Edinburgh have made three changes to their side from last week. Carl Bezuidenhout moves to full-back with Harry Leonard coming in to start his last game for the club at outhalf, while Sam Beard starts on the right wing. At lock, 22-year-old Ben Toolis is rewarded with his second start of the season
In one sense Solomons is allowing most of the team who capitulated to Munster a chance to redeem themselves against the defending champions. However, Leinster go into the match needing one league point to guarantee a home play-off and two to clinch the top seed.
“Leinster are a benchmark team in Europe,” said Solomons this week. “They are an outstanding side that is well balanced and play a physical game at a high tempo, complemented by some very talented individuals. They’ve got a huge depth of experience in their squad that’s been built over a long time. They are bearing the fruits of the work that has been put in . . ..”
Leinster have not lost at the RDS in any competition since Ulster beat them in March.