A number of World Cup players, including Ireland captain Brian O’Driscoll and Argentinian star Felipe Contepomi, have been drafted into Leinster’s 26-man squad for their Magners League showdown with Ulster on Friday (Ravenhill, kick-off 7.30pm).
O’Driscoll, the province’s skipper for the third consecutive year, Gordon D’Arcy and Girvan Dempsey are all together in a Leinster squad for the first time this season.
IRB World Player of the Year nominee Felipe Contepomi has also been included by coach Michael Cheika after starring in Argentina’s excellent World Cup run.
Leinster are further boosted by the return of Jamie Heaslip and Chris Whitaker after injury, while both Shane Horgan and Malcolm O’Kelly are set to feature again after playing against Glasgow last time out.
Having touched down on Irish soil late last week, former South Africa prop Ollie Le Roux could have his maiden run out for the province in Belfast. Upwards of 1,000 Leinster supporters are expected to venture north for Friday’s game.
Encouraged by the return of his international players, Leinster boss Cheika said: “I feel that with all the international players back this week, this will further invigorate the squad ahead of a massive four weeks for Leinster.
“Everyone, bar Trevor Hogan and Ronan McCormack who are both injured, is fit and available for selection and it’s testament to the desire of the players to play for the province.
“Felipe (Contepomi) is included in the squad and he’ll certainly be on a high after having an outstanding couple of weeks with Argentina. He’s very eager to get back playing and hopefully we can benefit from his own excellent form.
“Ollie (Le Roux) has a massive amount of leadership skills and confidence. He has a wealth of experience at provincial and international levels and will be in the squad,” he added.
“Though he has just been here for three days, he has already made a positive contribution and will further help us to build a strong and competitive tight five. You can see already in training that he has got a smile on his face and I’m sure that he will enjoy the experience of living in Ireland and playing for Leinster.”
LEINSTER Squad (v Ulster): Forwards (13) – Stan Wright, Bernard Jackman, Ollie Le Roux, Juan Francisco Gomez, Stephen Knoop, Leo Cullen, Malcolm O’Kelly, Devin Toner, Stephen Keogh, Keith Gleeson, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip, Kevin McLaughlin.
Backs (13) – Chris Whitaker, Cillian Willis, Felipe Contepomi, Jonathan Sexton, Christian Warner, Michael Berne, Gordon D’Arcy, Brian O’Driscoll (capt), Luke Fitzgerald, Rob Kearney, Gary Brown, Shane Horgan, Girvan Dempsey.