Johnny Sexton rested as Munster and Leinster both name strong XVs

Keith Earls is named on the Munster bench for his first appearance since January

Johnny Sexton appears to have made his final appearance at Thomond Park, he will not feature in Saturday’s match. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

A number of Irish internationals involved in the Six Nations make their first appearances for Munster and Leinster since January when the provinces renew their rivalry in Saturday night's URC game at Thomond Park (live on RTÉ and Premier Sports).

Johan van Graan has recalled captain Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray and Joey Carbery in three of nine changes from the starting XV for last week’s win over Benetton.

While Leo Cullen has restored Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose (who captains the side), Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe, Jamison Gibson-Park and the backrow of Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier and Jack Conan among 11 changes from the team which kicked off last week’s win away to Connacht.

Keith Earls is also named on the bench for his first appearance since January after being ruled out of the Six Nations while the Leinster bench also features Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan and Tadhg Furlong.


A notable absentee however is Johnny Sexton, who has been kept back for next week’s Champions Cup first leg away to Connacht and has thus seemingly played his last match at Thomond Park.

The other changes to the starting Munster line-up see Calvin Nash, Chris Farrell, Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, the Leinster-bound Jason Jenkins and Chris Cloete come in to the side. There are also three positional switches.

Gavin Coombes, who signed a new contract until 2025 this week, reverts to number ‘8’ on his 50th appearance for Munster, Damian de Allende reverts to inside centre alongside Farrell, and Shane Daly switches from right to left wing in the absence of Simon Zebo, who has completed the return to play protocols and returns to full training early next week along with Jean Kleyn (leg) and Mike Haley (knee).

Dave Kilcoyne is being managed for a neck injury sustained in Ireland’s final game of the Six Nations against Scotland. Tadhg Beirne continues to be assessed for a thigh injury sustained in the same match.

In addition to Leinster’s eight returning internationals, Cullen also recalls Ed Byrne, Devin Toner and the Exeter-bound Jack Dunne, while Jimmy O’Brien moves from fullback to right-wing. Ross Molony, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath and Ciaran Frawley all move to the bench where there is a 6-2 split.

Munster: Matt Gallagher; Calvin Nash, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Shane Daly; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jason Jenkins, Fineen Wycherley; Peter O'Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Josh Wycherley, John Ryan, Thomas Ahern, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Keith Earls.

Leinster: Hugo Keenan; Jimmy O'Brien, Garry Ringrose (capt) Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Ala'alatoa; Devin Toner, Jack Dunne; Caelan Doris, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Dan Sheehan, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Ross Molony, Josh Murphy, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Max Deegan.

Referee: Christophe Ridley (RFU).

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times