Leinster ring the changes as John Muldoon starts in 300th game
Pro12 leaders make 11 changes for their trip to the champions at Sportsground
John Muldoon and Andrew Browne during Connacht training earlier this week. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
While Leo Cullen has made 11 changes to his Leinster team from last weekend’s last-gasp win over Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium, which opened a nine-point gap between them and the third-placed Welsh region in the Pro12 table.
The 34-year-old Muldoon, who has started 23 games already this season, leads the team featuring four personnel changes from last weekend’s win over Edinburgh.
Jack Carty is handed the reins at outhalf for the visit of the Pro12 table toppers while Craig Ronaldson is recalled to start in the centre with Bundee Aki.
Dave Heffernan and Ireland international Finlay Bealham are named in the front row in an otherwise unchanged forward pack.
Commenting on the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam says it’s great to be back at the Sportsground after a number of weeks on the road.
“Leinster are flying high at the top of the Pro12 table as well as in Europe and we know we are coming up against a tough side stacked with quality players.
“But that just adds to the excitement for us as a team. We are really looking forward to this game and the chance to put in a huge performance for ourselves, for our supporters and for John Muldoon on a special day for him.”
Rhys Ruddock moves to number eight for Leinster and will captain the side, with Dominic Ryan coming at blindside flanker and Josh van der Flier once again starting at openside.
An all-new tight five has been selected for this weekend’s test in Galway. With Ross Molony and Hayden Triggs making up the second row pairing, and Cian Healy, James Tracy and Mike Ross starting in the front row.
Zane Kirchner and Rory O’Loughlin are the only two backs retained from last weekend’s win.
Kirchner shifts from outside centre to full-back and O’Loughlin will start in the number 13 shirt, partnered by Noel Reid in midfield. Dave Kearney and Adam Byrne complete the back three.
Luke McGrath and Ross Byrne make up Leinster’s starting half-back pairing.
A win for Leinster in Galway could secure a home semi-final if Ospreys don’t beat Cardiff Blues, and Scarlets fail to take maximum points from their game against the Dragons.
CONNACHT: Tiernan O’Halloran; Niyi Adeolokun, Bundee Aki, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Quinn Roux, Andrew Browne; Eoin McKeon, Jake Heenan, John Muldoon (Captain).
Replacements: Shane Delahunt, JP Cooney, Dominic Robertson-McCoy, Sean O’Brien, Naulia Dawai, Caolin Blade, Steve Crosbie, Eoin Griffin.
LEINSTER: Zane Kirchner; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Mike Ross; Ross Molony, Hayden Triggs; Dominic Ryan, Josh van der Flier, Rhys Ruddock (Captain).
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Peter Dooley, Michael Bent, Ian Nagle, Peadar Timmins, Nick McCarthy, Tom Daly, Barry Daly.