Rob Kearney and Sean O’Brien to start for Leinster
Duo come into side for trip to Ulster where Rory Best will earn his 200th senior cap
Sean O’Brien during Leinster training ahead of their Pro14 clash with Ulster. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
The Lions duo are both returning from injury to take their place in the team as Leo Cullen’s side look to leapfrog their opponents in the Pro14 B Conference table.
Neither Robbie Henshaw or Johnny Sexton are included in the team after picking up knocks during the week but Cullen said that neither will be out long-term.
Kearney comes into the number 15 jersey with Adam Byrne on the right wing and Dave Kearney on the left.
There is also a return from injury for Rory O’Loughlin who joins fellow St. Michael’s past pupil Noel Reid in the centre.
Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne start as the half back pairing for the trip to the Kingspan.
In the pack Jack McGrath and Tadhg Furlong start at loosehead and tighthead respectively while James Tracy wins his 50th cap from hooker.
Devin Toner is joined in the second row by James Ryan.
In the back row Dan Leavy starts his first game back from injury after impressing off the bench last week in Scotstoun, while Jordi Murphy also comes back into the side at openside flanker.
Finally O’Brien is back from a calf injury to captain the side from the base of the scrum.
Meanwhile, Rory Best will become the fourth Ulster player to reach 200 caps when he lines out out in Saturday’s interprovincial derby.
The game will be Best’s first start of the season, following his return from injury as a replacement against La Rochelle last Sunday.
Either side of Best, Rodney Ah You also comes into the team at tight-head, with Callum Black completing the front row.
Iain Henderson will continue to captain the side, as he shifts from flanker to lock, with Alan O’Connor retaining his place in the second row.
Jean Deysel, who missed last week’s Champions Cup outing due to injury, returns at number eight, with flankers Sean Reidy and Chris Henry selected as the other loose forwards.
Aaron Cairns will make his first senior start as the Ballynahinch RFC clubman is named at scrum-half. He will be partnered at half-back by Australian international Christian Lealiifano.
The Irish-capped duo of Stuart McCloskey and Luke Marshall are selected in midfield, with Jacob Stockdale, Tommy Bowe and Charles Piutau making up the back three.
LEINSTER: Rob Kearney, Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney, Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Jack McGrath, James Tracy, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, James Ryan, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy, Seán O’Brien (capt).
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Cian Healy, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Cathal Marsh, Jordan Larmour.
ULSTER: Callum Black, Rory Best, Rodney Ah You, Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson (Capt), Sean Reidy, Chris Henry, Jean Deysel; Aaron Cairns, Christian Lealiifano, Jacob Stockdale, Stuart McCloskey, Luke Marshall, Tommy Bowe, Charles Piutau.
Replacements: Rob Herring, Andy Warwick, Ross Kane, Kieran Treadwell, Robbie Diack, Jonny Stewart, Peter Nelson, Louis Ludik.