Champions Cup team news: Keenan fit for Leinster as Munster welcome back Snyman

Leinster missing Garry Ringrose and Jimmy O’Brien for visit of Leicester Tigers while Crowley and Casey once again start for Munster

Hugo Keenan, Andrew Porter and Robbie Henshaw have all overcome injury problems to be named in the Leinster starting XV ahead of Saturday’s round of 16 Champions Cup clash with Leicester Tigers.

Keenan starts at fullback in his first action since being a late scratch from Ireland’s final Six Nations clash last month due to a hip injury, while Henshaw has passed through the graduated return to play protocols having left last week’s victory over the Bulls for a HIA. Porter had been nursing a shoulder injury but is fit to start in the frontrow alongside Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong.

However, none of Jimmy O’Brien (neck), Luke McGrath (head) Garry Ringrose (shoulder) or Charlie Ngatai (calf) have been named in the 23 with all four requiring further assessment according to Monday’s injury briefing.

In Ringrose’s absence, Jamie Osborne earns a first European start since last year’s away victory over Gloucester as he lines out at centre alongside Henshaw. Elsewhere in the backline, Ross Byrne has been given the nod to start at outhalf over his brother, Harry, and Ciarán Frawley, both of whom are on the bench. Jamison Gibson-Park partners him at halfback.


Jordan Larmour shifts from fullback to wing to accommodate the returning Keenan, while James Lowe rounds out the backthree.

In the pack, Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy once again form the lock pairing while Caelan Doris replaces Jack Conan at number eight, leaving a backrow of himself, Josh van der Flier and Ryan Baird.

Alongside Frawley and Harry Byrne, scrumhalf Ben Murphy has been named on the bench. Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Jason Jenkins and Conan provide the forward cover.

Leicester are without George Martin and Ollie Chessum, two forwards that were part of the England pack that handed Ireland their sole defeat of the Six Nations. Tommy Reffell, the Welsh backrow who finished with the most turnovers of any individual player during the Six Nations, is also absent from the 23.

Head coach Dan McKellar does have international firepower to call on elsewhere, though, with Handré Pollard starting at outhalf. Fellow Springbok Jasper Wiese lines out at number eight with Dan Cole and Argentina’s Julian Montoya also lining out in the forwards. In the backthree, England’s Freddie Steward is on the wing. Dan Kelly, the former Ireland U20 international, lines out at centre.

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Leinster: H Keenan; J Larmour, R Henshaw, J Osborne, J Lowe; R Byrne, J Gibson-Park; A Porter, D Sheehan, T Furlong; R Molony, J McCarthy; R Baird, J van der Flier, C Doris.

Replacements: R Kelleher, C Healy, M Ala’alatoa, J Jenkins, J Conan, B Murphy, H Byrne, C Frawley.

Leicester Tigers: J Shillock; F Steward, D Kelly, S Kata, O Hassell-Collins; H Pollard, J van Poortvliet; J Cronin, J Montoya (capt), D Cole; H Wells, K Hatherell; H Liebenberg, O Cracknell, J Wiese.

Replacements: C Clare, F van Wyk, W Hurd, F Carnduff, E Ilione, T Whiteley, P Cokanasiga, M Brown.

Meanwhile Munster have been bolstered by the return of RG Snyman and Simon Zebo ahead of their trip to face Northampton on Sunday. Those are the only new faces to the side that beat Cardiff last week, as Sean O’Brien and Tom Ahern drop out from the starting XV to the bench.

Tadhg Beirne captains the side and partners Snyman at secondrow as Peter O’Mahony, John Hodnett and Gavin Coombes make up the backrow trio behind them. Jeremy Loughman starts at loosehead on his 100th appearance for the province. Stephen Archer and Niall Scannell start alongside him in the frontrow.

Craig Casey and Jack Crowley once again form the halfback pairing, with Alex Nankivell and Antoine Frisch - who recently confirmed his desire to play for France over Ireland - at centre. Alongside Zebo, Shane Daly and Mike Haley make up the backthree.

Eoghan Clarke, Josh Wycherley and academy prop Dylan Donnelly provide the frontrow back-up. John Ryan was originally named in the squad as Munster appealed a three-week ban for foul play, but the suspension has been upheld.

Elsewhere, Ahern and Alex Kendellen also provide forward cover on the bench while Conor Murray - who recently signed a one-year contract extension to stay at the province - Joey Carbery and Seán O’Brien are the backline replacements.

Northampton are without England international George Furbank at fullback, while scrumhalf Alex Mitchell is named on the bench having not featured for the Saints since the Six Nations due to a wrist injury. Courtney Lawes, who leaves the club this summer to join Brive, starts in a backrow also featuring England international Lewis Ludlam.

Fin Smith starts at outhalf with England centre Fraser Dingwall at 13. Exciting young speedster Ollie Sleightholme is on the wing.

Northampton Saints: J Ramm; T Freeman, F Dingwall, B Odendaal, O Sleightholme; F Smith, T James; E Iyogun, C Langdon, T Davison; A Moon, A Coles; C Lawes, L Ludlam (capt), S Graham.

Replacements: S Matavesi, A Waller, P Hill, T Mayanavanua, A Scott-Young, J Augustus, A Mitchell, G Hendy.

Munster: M Haley; S Zebo, A Frisch, A Nankivell, S Daly; J Crowley, C Casey; J Loughman, N Scannell, S Archer; T Beirne (capt), RG Snyman; P O’Mahony, J Hodnett, G Coombe.

Replacements: E Clarke, J Wycherley, J Ryan, T Ahern, A Kendellen, C Murray, J Carbery, S O’Brien.

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns

Nathan Johns is an Irish Times journalist