RugbyURC team line-ups

URC team news: Andrew Osborne to make Leinster debut against Zebre

Osborne will join older brother Jamie in backline; Richie Murphy names strong first Ulster line-up; Connacht change five in the pack

Leinster hand a debut to academy winger Andrew Osborne for Saturday night’s URC trip to play Zebre Parma at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi (7.35pm Irish time, live on RTÉ2 and Premier Sports 2).

Osborne, 20, has been named on the left wing and will join his older brother Jamie in the backline, the third set of brothers to play for Leinster this season after Ross and Harry Byrne and Joe and Paddy McCarthy.

Versatile academy forward Diarmuid Mangan is also set to make his debut after he was named on the bench for the trip to Italy.

Osborne featured in the recent friendlies against Saracens and Bath, and the Naas RFC player was part of the Ireland under-20 Grand Slam-winning team last year. Mangan, a product of Newbridge College, was also part of the Ireland Under-20 Six Nations team last year.


Ciarán Frawley returns to the Leinster line-up from Ireland duty to start at fullback and he is joined in the back three by Rob Russell and debutant Andrew Osborne.

In the centre, Liam Turner joins Jamie Osborne, while Ross Byne and Luke McGrath partner once more at halfback.

Loosehead prop Ed Byrne will win his 100th cap since making his debut in February 2014, when he came on as a sub in Parma against Zebre. He is joined in the frontrow by hooker Lee Barron and Thomas Clarkson.

In the secondrow, Ross Molony partners Jason Jenkins, while Will Connors, captain Scott Penny and Max Deegan complete the pack.

Among the replacements, Mangan is joined by fellow academy players Fintan Gunne and Henry McErlean.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game, Leinster senior coach Jacques Nienaber said the URC matches and friendlies during the Six Nations window have been very beneficial to the wider squad.

“We got well tested in these matches. The games that we have played without the international players has been a great test for the squad’s character.”

LEINSTER (v Zebre): Ciarán Frawley; Rob Russell, Liam Turner, Jamie Osborne, Andrew Osborne; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Ed Byrne, Lee Barron, Thomas Clarkson; Ross Molony, Jason Jenkins; Will Connors, Scott Penny (capt), Max Deegan:

Replacements: John McKee, Michael Milne, Michael Ala’alatoa, Brian Deeny, Diarmuid Mangan, Fintan Gunne, Sam Prendergast, Henry McErlean.

Interim Ulster head coach Richie Murphy has named his first Ulster side for Saturday afternoon’s game against the Sharks at Kings Park in Durban (1.0pm Irish time, live Premier Sports).

Iain Henderson captains the side upon his return from Ireland duty and lines up alongside Kieran Treadwell, who starts for the first time since sustaining a rib injury against Harlequins in January.

Murphy selects a strong frontrow that sees Springbok prop Steven Kitshoff pack down alongside hooker Tom Stewart and tighthead prop Tom O’Toole.

The backrow sees Harry Sheridan start at blindside flanker, with David McCann starting on the openside and Nick Timoney at number eight.

Stuart McCloskey returns to the team’s starting line-up after his Ireland duties as he pairs up with James Hume in midfield. John Cooney and Billy Burns form the halfback partnership, Mike Lowry and Ethan McIlroy start on the left and right wings respectively, with Will Addison at fullback.

Murphy has opted for a 6:2 split on the bench. John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Scott Wilson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea and Sean Reffell provide forwards options, while Nathan Doak, Jude Postlethwaite are the backs.

ULSTER (v Sharks): Will Addison; Ethan McIlroy, James Hume, Stuart McCloskey, Mike Lowry; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Steven Kitshoff, Tom Stewart, Tom O’Toole; Kieran Treadwell, Iain Henderson (capt); Harry Sheridan, David McCann, Nick Timoney.

Replacements: John Andrew, Andrew Warwick, Scott Wilson, Cormac Izuchukwu, Matty Rea, Nathan Doak, Jude Postlethwaite, Sean Reffell.

Connacht head coach Pete Wilkins has made five changes to the side that beat the Scarlets three weeks ago for Saturday evening’s match against the Lions at Dexcom Stadium (5.15pm, live on RTÉ 2 and Premier Sports).

All of those changes come in the pack as prop Denis Buckley, hooker Tadgh McElroy, lock Joe Joyce, flanker Conor Oliver and number eight Seán O’Brien come into the side.

Connacht are aiming for their fourth straight win in the competition as they continue their quest for playoff qualification and a return to next season’s Champions Cup.

Commenting ahead of the game, Wilkins said: “Tomorrow marks the start of a huge block of games for us both in the URC and Challenge Cup. We navigated through the Six Nations period with the two wins we needed, so now we want to build on that for the remainder of the season.

“The Lions are getting stronger with every year they’re in this competition, and they’re one of the strongest South African sides away from home. So we’re fully aware of the challenge ahead, and the need for us to be at the top of our game to get the win.”

CONNACHT (v Lions): Tiernan O’Halloran; Byron Ralston, David Hawkshaw, Cathal Forde, Andrew Smith; JJ Hanrahan, Caolin Blade; Denis Buckley, Tadgh McElroy, Jack Aungier; Niall Murray, Joe Joyce; Cian Prendergast, Conor Oliver, Seán O’Brien.

Replacements: Dave Heffernan, Jordan Duggan, Sam Illo, Darragh Murray, Shamus Hurley-Langton, Colm Reilly, Jack Carty, Paul Boyle.