The Leinster squad to face Ulster in Saturday’s Magners League derby clash at Ravenhill (kick-off 6pm) has been named.
CJ van der Linde, who featured for the province for the first time since March in last weekend’s 36-13 victory over Brive, has again been named in the extended panel for Saturday’s interprovincial derby alongside Rob Kearney and Kevin McLaughlin who were try scorers against Brive.
Jonathan Sexton, who has accumulated 56 league points so far this season, joins 13 Ireland senior internationals in the squad including Gordon D’Arcy, Shane Horgan and Brian O’Driscoll, each of whom were try scorers in Leinster’s last Magners League victory against Munster in the RDS.
Speaking ahead of the trip north to Belfast, Leinster consultant coach Alan Gaffney said that the squad are determined to maintain top spot in the Magners League against an improved Ulster side.
“There will be some tough selections in both the backs and forwards this week, which is good because it breeds competition in training and it keeps all the players on their toes,” said Gaffney.
” It was encouraging for someone like Kev (McLaughlin) to come in against Brive and perform as he did coming off the bench, while it was also good for CJ (van der Linde) to get some game time because he’s a world class player who can make a big impact for us this season.
“We face an exciting test against an Ulster side who have been in impressive form recently. Though Leinster have a good record up in Ravenhill of late, it is a difficult place to play and it is an even tougher place to win.
“They performed strongly against Bath the week before last and were unlucky by all accounts not to get a win against Edinburgh on Saturday.
“They probably feel as though they should have walked away with the spoils, which is no mean feat because Murrayfield is a tough place to get a win.
“There’s a strong blend of youth and experience across their team. While a lot has been made of the exciting young up-and-coming forwards and backs like Chris Henry and Darren Cave, for example, there’s also a core spine of talented experienced heads in there.
“Guys like Tom Court, BJ Botha and Andy Kyriacou are supplemented by the likes of Isaac Boss, Andrew Trimble and Paddy Wallace who have been around for a long time.
“Ulster are going to be tough opponents because they are a side on the up. We will need to be accurate and physical in our approach this weekend and the players are aware of the need to improve.”
The Leinster team is expected to be named on Friday afternoon.
LEINSTER Squad (v Ulster) – Backs (13): Shaun Berne, Gordon D’Arcy, Girvan Dempsey, Luke Fitzgerald, Shane Horgan, Chris Keane, Rob Kearney, Simon Keogh, Fergus McFadden, Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Eoin Reddan, Jonathan Sexton.
Forwards (15): Leo Cullen, John Fogarty, Cian Healy, Jamie Heaslip, Nathan Hines, Bernard Jackman, Shane Jennings, Stephen Keogh, Ronan McCormack, Kevin McLaughlin, Malcolm O’Kelly, Sean O’Brien, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, CJ van der Linde.