Sexton returns to Leinster side for trip to Italy
Ireland outhalf one of 13 changes for game against Zebre
Jonathan Sexton returns to the Leinster side for Sunday’s trip to play Zebre in Italy. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Jonathan Sexton will return to the Leinster side for Sunday’s Pro12 trip to Italy to take on Zebre after completing his rehabilitation from injury.
The Ireland outhalf last played for the province in the Heineken Cup victory away to Exeter in January and takes over from Ian Madigan, who has been rested for the encounter. Academy outhalf Cathal Marsh is in line to make his debut after being named on the bench.
Sexton’s inclusion is one of 13 changes made by Joe Schmidt from the 22-16 victory over Munster at Thomond Park last Saturday, with just Brian O’Driscoll and Isa Nacewa remaining in the starting line-up.
O’Driscoll will lead the side while Nacewa switches back from the left wing to fullback in place of Rob Kearney, with Fionn Carr named at number 11. Fergus McFadden comes in for the injured Dave Kearney on the right wing, with Andrew Goodman in for Gordon D’Arcy after the injury he picked up last weekend. John Cooney will partner Sexton at halfback.
Schmidt has named a new pack, with Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss and Michael Bent in the frontrow and Tom Denton and Devin Toner at lock. the backrow sees Kevin McLaughlin and Dominic Ryan playing either side of Rhys Ruddock at number eight.
Meanwhile, English referee Wayne Barnes will take charge of Leinster’s Amlin Cup semi-final clash against Biarritz at the RDS on Saturday week. Ireland’s George Clancy will officiate at the all French clash between Perpignan v Stade Francais on the Friday night.
After taking charge of last weekend’s game at Thomond Park, Wales’ Nigel Owens will again referee Munster for their Heinken Cup semi-final clash away to Clermont Auvergne at Stade de la Mosson in Montpellier on Saturday evening.
Ireland’s Alain Rolland will referee the last four meeting between Saracens and Toulon at Twickenham on Sunday week.
LEINSTER (v Zebre): Isa Nacewa; Fergus McFadden, Brian O'Driscoll (Capt), Andrew Goodman, Fionn Carr; Jonathan Sexton, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Michael Bent, Tom Denton, Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Dominic Ryan, Rhys Ruddock. Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack O'Connell, Jamie Hagan, Quinn Roux, Leo Auva'a, Isaac Boss, Cathal Marsh, Andrew Conway.