Furlong and Lowe fit for final as Leinster name unchanged 23

Skelton starts for La Rochelle but no Vito or Kerr-Barlow

Leinster have named an unchanged squad from the group that swept past Toulouse a fortnight ago ahead of Saturday’s Champions Cup final. There were some concerns over Tadhg Furlong (ankle) and James Lowe (shin) after the pair picked up niggles in the semi-final, but both have been included in what is a big boost for the province.

Ciarán Frawley, who sustained a facial injury last weekend in the URC clash with Munster, has also been passed fit to play and lines up in the 23 jersey. Jordan Larmour would have had sights on that bench role after impressing against Leinster’s provincial rivals, but Leo Cullen has opted to stick with Frawley.

Young lock Joe McCarthy keeps his place among the replacements despite Ryan Baird catching the eye in his return against Munster.

Johnny Sexton captains the side in his usual halfback partnership with Jamison Gibson-Park. Garry Ringrose and Robbie Henshaw continue their centre pairing while Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien form up the backthree alongside Lowe.

Furlong is joined once again in the frontrow by Andrew Porter and Rónan Kelleher. Ross Molony unsurprisingly keeps his place after impressing both in defence and his ball distribution against Toulouse, he is alongside James Ryan.

The backrow of Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan remains intact.

La Rochelle for their part have opted to start Australian lock Will Skelton one week on from his return from a calf injury. Head coach Ronan O’Gara had initially suggested that the former Saracens man would be out for the season, but a 15 minute bench cameo last weekend against Stade Francais has convinced his boss that he is fit.

The same cannot be said for former All Blacks Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Victor Vito. The former broke two bones in his hand in the semi-final victory over Racing 92, and despite suggestions that a hurling glove may be used to protect it, he has not made the cut. Vito suffered an ankle problem in that Stade Francais game and always faced a race against time to be fit.

Thomas Berjon comes in at scrumhalf while Matthias Haddad lines out at openside in Vito’s stead.

The good news from a La Rochelle point of view is that Brice Dulin returns to start at fullback. That shifts Dillyn Leyds out to wing, with Jules Favre dropping to the bench.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jimmy O’Brien, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Rónan Kelleher, Tadhg Furlong; Ross Molony, James Ryan; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Joe McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ross Byrne, Ciarán Frawley.

Stade Rochelais: Brice Dulin; Dillyn Leyds, Jeremy Sinzelle, Jonathan Danty, Raymond Rhule; Ihaia West, Thomas Berjon; Danny Priso, Pierre Bourgarit, Uini Atonio; Thomas Lavault, Will Skelton; Wiaan Liebenberg, Matthias Haddad, Gregory Alldritt.

Replacements: Facundo Bosch, Reda Wardi, Joel Sclavi, Romain Sazy, Remi Bourdeau, Arthur Retiere, Levani Botia, Jules Favre.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist