Leo Cullen rests big names for Leinster’s trip to Ulster
Both sides already know their fate as they face into interprovincial derby
Leinster’s Ross Byrne will captain the side for the first time in their Pro14 clash with Ulster. Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Pro14: Ulster v Leinster
Kick-off: 5.15pm, Saturday. Venue: Ravenhill. On TV: Eir Sport and Premier Sports.
It’s all change for Leinster as they face into their Pro14 encounter with Ulster knowing that a home semi-final is already secured.
The home side are also sure of their fate as they will line out against Connacht next Saturday in the semi-final playoffs for a chance to reach the last four.
In his starting team for Saturday, Leo Cullen has named Ross Byrne as captain the province for the first time, starting in a half-back partnership with Nick McCarthy.
Elsewhere in the back line, the experienced Dave Kearney and Fergus McFadden are selected on the wings with Jimmy O’Brien at full-back completing the back three.
Noel Reid and Joe Tomane are Leinster’s starting centre partnership for Saturday’s game in Belfast.
Jack McGrath, Bryan Byrne and Michael Bent have been selected in the Leinster front row.
Oisín Dowling will make his first senior start alongside Josh Murphy in the second row.
Will Connors continues his return from an ACL injury to start in the back row along with Max Deegan and Caelan Doris, who both came off the bench in last Sunday’s Heineken Champions Cup semi-final victory over Toulouse.
Ryan Baird, who made two appearances for Ireland under-20 in their recent Six Nations Grand Slam-winning campaign, could make his senior debut from the bench.
For Ulster, Darren Cave will lead the team out in what will be one of his final appearances for the province after he recently announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season.
Academy backrow Marcus Rea will make his senior debut for the province if he’s called upon from the bench, meaning it could be a special day for the Rea family, with brother Matty set to start.
David Busby, who suffered a long-term knee injury in pre-season, is in line to make his first appearance of the season. The utility back has previously played four games and scored a try on his debut against Zebre in February 2017.
Busby will be joined in the back three by academy players Michael Lowry and Angus Kernohan.
Cave will partner Peter Nelson in midfield, with David Shanahan and Johnny McPhillips paired at half-back by the Ulster coaching team.
Andy Warwick, John Andrew and Ross Kane are selected in the front row, with Ian Nagle and Alan O’Connor ready to offer support from the second row. Matty Rea, Clive Ross and Sean Reidy complete the forward pack.
Tommy O’Hagan and Jack Owens could make just their second appearances after being named among the replacements alongside Marcus Rea. Adam McBurney, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney, Jonny Stewart and Rob Lyttle are the other options on the bench.
ULSTER: Michael Lowry; David Busby, Darren Cave (c), Peter Nelson, Angus Kernohan; Johnny McPhillips, Dave Shanahan; Andy Warwick, John Andrew, Ross Kane, Ian Nagle, Alan O’Connor, Matty Rea, Clive Ross, Sean Reidy;
Replacements: Adam McBurney, Tommy O’Hagan, Tom O’Toole, Nick Timoney, Marcus Rea, Jonny Stewart, Jack Owens, Rob Lyttle.
LEINSTER: Jimmy O’Brien; Fergus McFadden, Joe Tomane, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne (c), Nick McCarthy; Jack McGrath, Bryan Byrne, Michael Bent; Josh Murphy, Oisín Dowling, Max Deegan, Will Connors, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Peter Dooley, Vakh Abdaladze, Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Paddy Patterson, Ciarán Frawley, Barry Daly.