Two home debuts for Leinster


Pro12 Team News:  There will be two home debuts for Leinster when they host Dragons at the RDS for the first home game of the new RaboDirect Pro12 campaign on Saturday (6.15pm).

Former Stormers lock Quinn Roux will join captain Leo Cullen in the secondrow, while backrow forward Ben Marshall starts alongside Shane Jennings and Leo Auva'a.

Ireland international hooker Seán Cronin will start in the frontrow with props Jack McGrath and Jamie Hagan.

Former Gonzaga scrumhalf John Cooney is called upon to fill the gap left by the injured Isaac Boss. He will form the halfback pairing with Ian Madigan, with Isa Nacewa the elder statesman of the backline at fullback.

Devin Toner is named on the replacements bench alongside prop Heinke van der Merwe as Leinster look to bounce back from their opening 45-20 defeat to Scarlets.

Jevon Groves is set to lead Dragons for the first time, while fellow backrow Lewis Evans could make his return from injury from the bench.

With an unchanged back line from the 37-6 victory over the Zebre last week, head coach Darren Edwards has rung the changes in the forwards with Ian Nimmo, Toby Faletau and Groves the only survivors from last weekend’s starting lineup.

Ulster coach Mark Anscombehas been forced into a late replacement to his starting XV for Saturday’s visit to the Liberty Stadium to take on the Ospreys after flanker Robbie Diack was withdrawn after aggravating a dead leg in the opening RaboDirect Pro12 victory over Glasgow.

The South African backrow was named in the side at lunchtime on Friday before undergoing a fitness test and his place will now go to Mike McComish, who will win his 10th cap for the province.

Anscombe has recalled Declan Fitzpatrick, Niall O’Connor and Darren Cave, while Ireland internationals Andrew Trimble and Stephen Ferris are named on a vastly experienced replacements bench ahead of the clash with Ospreys.

Fitzpatrick replaces John Afoa at tighthead prop, while O’Connor will start ahead of the injured Paddy Jackson at outhalf.

Cave has been promoted from the bench to start at outside centre at the expense of Chris Farrell. Luke Marshall, Michael Allen, Craig Gilroy and Jared Payne complete the backline.

“With Paddy Jackson it was a precaution with his calf," said Anscombe today. "He’s not 100 per cent but he’s feeling much better than he was and he’s progressing well. It wasn’t worth the risk and we wanted to give Niall another chance to show what he can do.

“Darren Cave was on the bench last week, he’s been training with the team now for a few weeks and I though he came on for the last quarter of an hour last week and added greatly to the team. He’s an international so he brings that experience to a youthful backline. Declan is the same, he’s been training well and we wanted to have a look at him from the start."

Anscombe added: "There are a lot of areas to improve on but you would expect that and the main thing is that we’re progressing. Over the next few weeks we’ll keep integrating players back into the team and that will allow us to keep developing and growing our game. Its early days and we’ve just got to keep our feet on the ground and know where we’re at.”

LEINSTER (v Dragons): Isa Nacewa; Andrew Conway, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Fionn Carr; Ian Madigan, John Cooney; Jack McGrath, Seán Cronin, Jamie Hagan; Leo Cullen (captain), Quinn Roux; Ben Marshall, Shane Jennings, Leo Auva'a. Replacements: Tom Sexton, Heinke van der Merwe, Martin Moore, Devin Toner, Jordi Murphy, Luke McGrath, Colm O'Shea, Darren Hudson

DRAGONS (v Leinster): Dan Evans, Will Harries, Pat Leach, Andy Tuilagi, Tom Prydie, Steffan Jones; Jonathan Evans; Nathan Williams, Sam Parry, Nathan Buck, Ian Nimmo, Adam Jones, Hywel Stoddart, Jevon Groves (c), Toby Faletau. Replacements: Hugh Gustafson, Aaron Coundley, Tim Ryan, Lewis Evans, Tom Brown, Liam Davies (Bedwas), Ashley Smith, Hallam Amos.

OSPREYS (v Ulster): Richard Fussell; Hanno Dirksen, Andrew Bishop, Ashley Beck, Tom Isaacs; Matthew Morgan, Rhys Webb; Ryan Bevington, Richard Hibbard, Aaron Jarvis; Ian Gough, Alun Wyn Jones (captain); James King, Justin Tipuric, Jonathan Thomas. Replacements:Scott Baldwin, Duncan Jones, Joe Rees, George Stowers, Joe Bearman, Kahn Fotuali’i, Dan Biggar, Tom Grabham

ULSTER:Jared Payne; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Luke Marshall, Michael Allen; Niall O’Connor, Michael Heaney; Callum Black, Rob Herring, Declan Fitzpatrick, Johann Muller (captain), Lewis Stevenson, Mike McComish, Sean Doyle, Nick Williams. Replacements:Nigel Brady, Tom Court, John Afoa, Niall McComb, Stephen Ferris, Paul Marshall, Paddy Jackson, Andrew Trimble.

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