As expected, Leo Cullen has named an entirely different starting XV from last week’s Champions Cup semi-final win over Toulouse, with only Cian Healy of that match-day 23 again included among the replacements for Leinster’s URC game against Munster at the Aviva Stadium (kick-off 7.15pm) tomorrow.
Jordan Larmour and Ryan Baird both return from injury, and both will start. Larmour, who has been sidelined for 10 weeks with a hip injury, starts at fullback, while Baird, who hasn’t played for Leinster in over three months due to a back injury sustained while in camp with the Ireland squad, starts on the blindside.
Rob Russell and Rory O’Loughlin complete the back three, Ciarán Frawley and Jamie Osborne renew their midfield partnership while there is a first home start for Cormac Foley at scrum-half with Harry Byrne named outside him.
In the pack, Ed Byrne will captain the side and is joined in the front row by Seán Cronin and Thomas Clarkson, Joe McCarthy and Josh Murphy are the locks with the returning Baird, Scott Penny and Max Deegan completing the starting XV.
On the bench, there’s a potential debut for 21-year-old scrum-half Ben Murphy. After being introduced to the game by Seapoint RC, Murphy came through Presentation College Bray. Before joining the Leinster Academy, his playing days continued post-school with Clontarf FC and Old Wesley RFC while he spent some time with this weekend’s opponents on a short-term contract in late 2020.
He also once acted as mascot for a meeting with Edinburgh Rugby at the RDS in 2007 on a day where current senior team coach Felipe Contepomi was captain.
Fellow Academy players John McKee and Alex Soroka join Murphy on the replacements bench, which also features Peter Dooley, Healy, Devin Toner, David Hawkshaw and Adam Byrne.
By contrast Munster coach Johann van Graan has made just four changes from the team that drew 24-all with Toulouse in the Champions Cup quarter-finals at the Aviva Stadium a fortnight ago, and all have been enforced.
Unsurprisingly, captain Peter O’Mahony has not been risked after the repeated shoulder stingers which forced him off prematurely against Toulouse. With the game coming too soon for Gavin Coombes and Chris Cloete, hence Fineen Wycherley has been shifted to the back-row with Thomas Ahern promoted to the starting second-row.
With illness ruling out Stephen Archer, John Ryan starts at tight-head with Keynan Knox promoted to the bench. Injuries having ruled out Damian de Allende and Simon Zebo, Dan Goggin starts at inside centre while Andrew Conway returns for his first Munster outing since the win over Wasps at home in January, having been sidelined after the Six Nations with a knee injury.
Keith Earls switches across to the left wing and in addition to Knox, Jack Daly and Rory Scannell also return to the match-day squad on the bench.
Leinster: Jordan Larmour; Rob Russell, Jamie Osborne, Ciarán Frawley, Rory O'Loughlin; Harry Byrne, Cormac Foley; Ed Byrne (capt), Seán Cronin, Thomas Clarkson, Joe McCarthy, Josh Murphy, Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Max Deegan.
Replacements: John McKee, Peter Dooley, Cian Healy, Devin Toner, Alex Soroka, Ben Murphy, David Hawkshaw, Adam Byrne.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Dan Goggin, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Thomas Ahern; Fineen Wycherley, Alex Kendellen, Jack O'Donoghue (C).
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, Jason Jenkins, Jack Daly, Craig Casey, Ben Healy, Rory Scannell.