Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has made 14 changes from the side that beat Munster for tomorrow night’s URC clash with Connacht at the Sportsground (7.35pm, live on RTÉ, Premier Sports, URC TV).
Robbie Henshaw is the only survivor from last weekend’s game at the Aviva stadium and he switches to outside centre with Charlie Ngatai joining him in the midfield. Rob Russell starts his first game of the season on the right wing while Jamie Osborne, who has filled both midfield roles in the URC campaign to date, is named on the wing for the first time in a year.
Harry Byrne replaces his brother Ross, who picked up a bicep injury last weekend, while Ciarán Frawley who came on against Munster at outhalf reverts to fullback where he has played most of his rugby this season. Ben Murphy is handed the nine jersey. It’s all change up front.
Ed Byrne has recovered from injury and is joined in the frontrow by hooker Rónan Kelleher and Samoan tighthead prop Michael Ala’alatoa. Ryan Baird and Jason Jenkins form the engine room at lock, while Scott Penny takes over the captaincy with Max Deegan at blindside flanker and James Culhane at number eight.
There are some familiar faces on the bench with Cian Healy set to make his first Leinster appearance of the season having missed the Rugby World Cup through injury. Scrumhalf Cormac Foley – he played centre in his last year at school – has recovered from a shoulder injury. Cullen has once again opted for a 6-2 split on the bench.
Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins welcomes back Ireland international wing Mack Hansen for his first game of the season, one of seven changes and several positional switches from the team beaten 53-27 by the Bulls last week.
There’s an all-new front row in Peter Dooley, Dave Heffernan and Jack Aungier, while Cian Prendergast comes back into the side at blindside flanker. Oisin Dowling will win his 50th cap for the province and he moves to the second row to play alongside Darragh Murray, while Seamus Hurley-Langton and number eight Sean Jansen complete the pack.
Scrumhalf Caolin Blade will captain the side while JJ Hanrahan is restored to the starting role at outhalf. Byron Ralston moves from the wing to outside centre where he’s partnered by the in-form Cathal Forde. Hansen is joined in the back three by Diarmuid Kilgallen and Tiernan O’Halloran.
Wilkins has also gone with a 6-2 split on the bench with replacement scrumhalf Michael McDonald set to make his Connacht debut. He will act as backline cover alongside former Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winning captain, David Hawkshaw. Paul Boyle is set to feature for the first time since breaking his wrist.
The game is sold out.
Ulster are without captain and Ireland secondrow Iain Henderson, centre Luke Marshall and Jake Flannery (groin) for tomorrow afternoon’s game against Edinburgh (5.15, Premier Sports, URC TV), all of whom picked up injuries during or in Flannery’s case in the warm-up before last weekend’s defeat to the Glasgow Warriors.
Hooker Rob Herring is also missing because of a calf injury he sustained in training. On the flip side of the ledger for Ulster head coach Dan McFarland is the return of Will Addison at fullback and Tom O’Toole at tighthead prop while twice-crowned Rugby World Cup winner, Springbok Steven Kitshoff, will get his first run out in front of a Kingspan Stadium crowd.
Connacht: Tiernan O’Halloran; Mack Hansen, Byron Ralston, Cathal Forde, Diarmuid Kilgallen; JJ Hanrahan, Caolin Blade (capt); Peter Dooley, Dave Heffernan, Jack Aungier; Darragh Murray, Oisin Dowling; Cian Prendergast, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Seán Jansen. Replacements: Dylan Tierney-Martin, Denis Buckley, Finlay Bealham, Niall Murray, Paul Boyle, Michael McDonald, David Hawkshaw, Conor Oliver.
Leinster: Ciarán Frawley; Rob Russell, Robbie Henshaw, Charlie Ngatai, Jamie Osborne; Harry Byrne, Ben Murphy; Ed Byrne, Rónan Kelleher, Michael Ala’alatoa; Ryan Baird, Jason Jenkins; Max Deegan, Scott Penny (capt), James Culhane. Replacements: Lee Barron, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Cormac Foley, Liam Turner, Will Connors.
Ulster: Will Addison; Rob Baloucoune, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Jacob Stockdale; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Steven Kitshoff, Tom Stewart, Tom O’Toole; Alan O’Connor (capt), Kieran Treadwell; Matty Rea, Nick Timoney, James McNabney. Replacements: John Andrew, Andy Warwick, Marty Moore, Cormac Izuchukwu, Dave Ewers, Nathan Doak, Stewart Moore, Ben Moxham.
- Find The Irish Times on WhatsApp and stay up to date