Dan Leavy returns at eight for Leinster’s trip to play Bath
Scott Fardy left out by Leo Cullen in favour of James Lowe and Jamison Gibson-Park
Dan Leavy will start at number eight for Leinster as they take on Bath at The Rec. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Champions Cup Pool One, Bath v Leinster, Saturday December 8th, The Rec (kick-off 3.15pm, BT Sport).
Dan Leavy returns from the neck injury that ruled him out of Ireland’s victory over the All Blacks on November 17th. Interestingly, Leavy will play number eight against Bath at The Rec on Saturday as Leinster resume their defence of the Champions Cup.
Jack Conan has recovered from an AC joint problem but Leo Cullen opts for a backrow combination of Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier and Leavy with Conan in reserve.
Scott Fardy is excluded from the panel that travelled to England on Friday morning.
The Wallaby international - despite playing the best rugby of his career - makes way because Munster bound scrumhalf Nick McCarthy has a foot injury, so Cullen has selected Jamison Gibson-Park and James Lowe as the allotted foreign players.
Only two Australian and New Zealanders can be included in European club squads. Gibson-Park will be Irish qualified next summer.
Luke McGrath returns to the number nine jersey, with Gibson-Park on the bench and Hugh O’Sullivan travelling as cover.
Fardy’s absence sees the Ireland pairing, James Ryan and Dev Toner, reunite in the secondrow for this crucial third round tie (both teams lost to Toulouse in October).
Noel Reid gets a vote of confidence from the coaches to replace Robbie Henshaw (hamstring) at inside centre despite the impressive form of Conor O’Brien in recent weeks.
With Jack McGrath injured, Ed Byrne is due to make his European debut off the bench.
The heavy toll of Premiership rugby leaves Bath severely under-strength as England backrow Zach Mercer is the latest to be ruled out. Mercer joins Lions number eight Toby Faletau, Anthony Watson, Jonathan Joseph, Aled Brew, Tom Homer, Beno Obano and Wales outhalf Rhys Priestland on their injured list.
Leinster: R Kearney; J Larmour, G Ringrose, N Reid, J Lowe; J Sexton (capt), L McGrath; C Healy, S Cronin, T Furlong; D Toner, J Ryan; R Ruddock, J van der Flier, D Leavy. Replacements: J Tracy, E Byrne, A Porter, R Molony, J Conan, J Gibon-Park, R Byrne, R O’Loughlin.