Changes aplenty for Leinster and Ulster’s New Year’s Eve showdown

Cullen welcomes back seven Ireland internationals in pack, Trimble makes return

Sean O’Brien training with the Leinster squad this week. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

Sean O’Brien training with the Leinster squad this week. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho

 

Both Leo Cullen and Les Kiss have made a raft of changes for the New Year’s Eve showdown between Leinster and Ulster at the RDS.

The two provinces have endured mixed fortunes over the Christmas period, with Leinster losing their Stephen’s Day clash with Munster after Ulster eased past a depleted Connacht on December 23rd.

But the two sides see a host of internationals return to the Pro 12 fold as third place Leinster welcome fourth place to Dublin.

In the backline Garry Ringrose returns for the hosts, with Noel Reid starting inside him in midfield. Adam Byrne also returns to the starting XV on the wing, with Luke McGrath slotting back in at halfback alongside Ross Byrne.

However it is up front where Cullen has made the most changes, selecting an entirely new-look pack including eight Irish internationals.

Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin and Michael Bent make up the frontrow, with Devin Toner and Hayden Triggs in the engine-room.

And Cullen has been able to call upon Sean O’Brien, Josh van der Flier and Jamie Heaslip to form a formidable-looking backrow.

Meanwhile Kiss has been able to welcome back Andrew Trimble after the foot injury he sustained during Ireland’s November campaign. Paul Marshall, Darren Cave and Tommy Bowe are also reinstated.

Marshall’s selection means Ruan Pienaar will take the number 10 jersey.

Rob Herring, Franco van der Merwe and Sean Reidy have been recalled to the Ulster pack, while prop Johnny Simpson could make his first senior appearance if called into action from the bench.

Saturday’s fixture, which kicks off at 3.0, is an 18,200 sell-out.

Leinster: Isa Nacewa, Adam Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Noel Reid, Rory O’Loughlin, Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath, Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Hayden Triggs, Sean O’Brien, Josh van der Flier, Jamie Heaslip. Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Andrew Porter, Jeremy Loughman, Mick Kearney, Jack Conan, Jamison Gibson-Park, Tom Daly, Zane Kirchner.

Ulster: C Piutau, A Trimble, D Cave, S McCloskey, T Bowe, R Pienaar, P Marshall; A Warwick, R Herring (captain), R Ah You, K Treadwell, F van der Merwe, C Ross, S Reidy, R Wilson. Replacements: J Andrew, C Black, J Simpson, P Browne, C Henry, B Herron, L Ludik, J Stockdale.

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