The Leinster team to face the Scarlets in Saturday’s Magners League opener at Parc y Scarlets (kick-off 6.30pm) has been named.
Australian Shaun Berne, an older brother of former Leinster centre Michael Berne, will make his competitive debut for the province and will partner Fergus McFadden at centre for the trip to Llanelli.
Chris Keane and Jonathan Sexton form the half-back partnership, with Ireland internationals Shane Horgan and Girvan Dempsey starting on the right wing and at full-back respectively and Isa Nacewa continuing on the left wing.
The team will be led once more by Leo Cullen, who is set to make his 118th appearance for Leinster this weekend.
He will partner Leinster’s most-capped player Malcolm O’Kelly who will be lining out for the 167th time.
Kevin McLaughlin starts in a back row unit which includes Shane Jennings and Stephen Keogh.
Recent signing Mike Ross is named on the replacements bench amongst four recent Leinster Academy graduates.
A decision on the replacement hooker will be made closer to kick-off.
Speaking ahead of the game, Cullen said: “The new additions to the squad are settling in well. Shaun Berne is a very experienced player and is a good leader on the field, with a calm head.
“Mike (Ross) is a very strong guy and has done brilliantly over the last few seasons over in the Guinness Premiership.
“After getting his first Ireland cap earlier in the summer he’ll have aspirations to do well with Leinster and push on into the Ireland reckoning.
“The attitude from all the players over the summer has been good and we’re keen as a group to push on and become more consistent in both the Magners League and Heineken Cup.
“We had a good pre-season camp in the south of France followed by the game against London Irish last weekend so we’ve had a pretty good build-up – but we need to start the Magners League strongly.
“Our form in the earlier rounds last year wasn’t as consistent as we would have liked and it ultimately cost us.
“We’re determined to push on and the Scarlets will be dangerous opponents. They’re a great club with great traditions and we know that we will need to face up to the passion and skill levels that they will bring to the game.
“We were lucky to win both of our games against them last year, but this is a fresh start and we’re expecting another tough test.”
LEINSTER (v Scarlets): Girvan Dempsey; Shane Horgan, Fergus McFadden, Shaun Berne, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Chris Keane; Cian Healy, John Fogarty, Stan Wright, Leo Cullen (capt), Malcolm O’Kelly, Kevin McLaughlin, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh.
Replacements: Bernard Jackman/Jason Harris-Wright, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Paul O’Donohoe, Simon Keogh, Niall Morris.