Harry Byrne gets nod over brother Ross at outhalf as Leinster recall internationals

Leo Cullen turns to his Ireland internationals to get province back on the winning trail against Connacht

Harry Byrne during the Leinster captain’s run at the RDS on Thursday ahead of Fricay night’s URC game against Connacht. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

Harry Byrne during the Leinster captain’s run at the RDS on Thursday ahead of Fricay night’s URC game against Connacht. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

 

URC: Leinster v Connacht, Friday, RDS, 7.45pm – Live on RTÉ, Premier Sports

Leinster have recalled 10 players, all of them internationals, for Friday’s URC derby against Connacht at the RDS.

Hugo Keenan, Garry Ringrose, James Lowe, Josh van der Flier and Caelan Doris all return after starting all three of Ireland’s November wins. Harry Byrne is also preferred to his brother Ross at outhalf, while Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan and Michael Ala’alatoa form a new frontrow and Ryan Baird starts in the secondrow.

There are also three positional switches in a radically altered side compared to the team which lost 20-10 to Ulster at home last Saturday, with Jordan Larmour shifting to right wing, Robbie Henshaw to inside centre and Rhys Ruddock to blindside.

Furthermore, Rónan Kelleher and Andrew Porter are recalled to the bench, as is Josh Murphy, who will reach a half-century of appearances for the province if he is introduced from the bench.

Leinster are as locked and loaded as they could be, given Johnny Sexton, Jamison Gibson-Park, James Ryan and Jack Conan are still casualties from the autumn series.

Speaking of the sibling rivalry at outhalf, Leo Cullen said: “It’s good, the Byrne brothers, nice and competitive. It’s a great opportunity for Harry and a number of guys coming back in from being off last week.

“The challenge for us is we have a lot of changes on the back of last week, disappointing result. It’s important we try to be better but the challenge is quite similar against a team that is much more cohesive in many ways.

“Connacht are generally two or three changes week to week, we’ve 10-odd changes. That’s the challenge for us trying to get the group together.

“We talk about his block of games, we missed an opportunity last week, it’s important that we don’t miss another one this week that leads us into Europe next week. It’s an unbelievably exciting block of games.

For our guys this is the exciting part of the year. There are lots of distractions as we know but for us we try to focus and play well. Hopefully we get a big crowd.”

Cullen admitted the game plan changed a little with the younger Byrne starting this week, but not overly so.

“The way we want to play as a team doesn’t change drastically. They have different styles in terms of any of the 10s we have, especially from an attacking point of view, getting your timing off the 10s is very important for the forwards and the outside backs.

“Ross has played a ton of games for the team, very important player for us. Harry has played a hell of a lot less, younger player.

“So again we’re keen to see Harry in a big game, this is a big game for us. I hope he goes well. I thought Ross did a good job last week so when he was good the competition is good, like we talked about in the past.

“It’s making sure we are brave enough in terms of selection as well to give some of the younger players opportunities. There are a few other younger players in the team as well. Hopefully they go well too.”

Meanwhile, Andy Friend has made three changes to the starting XV from last Friday’s thrilling 46-18 win over the Ospreys at the Sportsground.

Peter Robb, a replacement last week, starts for the first time since last February in midfield, while two others who appeared off the bench against the Ospreys also start, namely lock Oisín Dowling and flanker Eoghan Masterson, who comes in for the injured Paul Boyle. Jarrad Butler switches to number eight and Sammy Arnold to outside centre.

Cian Prendergast and Tom Farrell also return from injuries to be named on the bench.

LEINSTER: Hugo Keenan; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Harry Byrne, Luke McGrath (capt); Cian Healy, Dan Sheehan, Michael Ala’alatoa; Ryan Baird, Devin Toner; Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Andrew Porter, Vakh Abdaladze, Josh Murphy, Max Deegan, Nick McCarthy, Ross Byrne, Tommy O’Brien.

CONNACHT: Oran McNulty; Alex Wootton, Sammy Arnold, Peter Robb, Mack Hansen; Jack Carty (capt), Kieran Marmion; Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan, Finlay Bealham; Oisín Dowling, Ultan Dillane; Eoghan Masterson, Conor Oliver, Jarrad Butler.

Replacements: Shane Delahunt, Jordan Duggan, Jack Aungier, Leva Fifita, Cian Prendergast, Caolin Blade, Conor Fitzgerald, Tom Farrell.

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