The Leinster team to face Munster in Friday night’s Magners League derby tie at Thomond Park (kick-off 8.05pm) has been named.
Gordon D’Arcy, a try scorer against Munster last October, will start at inside centre and partner Fergus McFadden in the only change in the back-line to the Leinster side that defeated Connacht last weekend.
Rob Kearney continues at full-back with Girvan Dempsey and Isa Nacewa on the wings, while Eoin Reddan will once again combine with Jonathan Sexton at half-back. Injury rules out both Brian O’Driscoll and Shane Horgan.
Jamie Heaslip, back from RBS 6 Nations duty, has also been named in the starting line-up for Friday’s interprovincial derby.
The number 8 will slot into a back-row which includes fellow Ireland international Shane Jennings and Scotland’s Nathan Hines.
Leo Cullen will captain the current Magners League leaders and starts in the second row alongside Devin Toner, while Cian Healy joins fellow Ireland internationals Bernard Jackman and Malcolm O’Kelly on the bench.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s game, Leinster skipper Cullen said that the team has great respect for the challenge of facing an in-form Munster side.
“Training has been a bit disjointed over the last while and it was the same last week with the return of the international players from Ireland camp, so it was hardly ideal preparation from our point of view,” he said.
“When you come up against a team like Connacht who are together for longer periods without too much disruption to their personnel, you have to adapt fast and to their credit they looked more cohesive and were unlucky not to come away with something more from the game.
“We had opportunities to win the game, but we got out of jail and the players know that we will have to improve this week because we’re coming up against an in-form Munster team who have been steadily improving in recent months.
“Their forwards make up the majority of the Ireland pack and they have real experience and class in their half-back combinations.
“When you supplement that to some quality overseas players in the likes of (Doug) Howlett, (Lifeimi) Mafi and (Paul) Warwick, it makes for a potent combination alongside some exciting outside backs.
“Of course it’s a league game with points up for grabs, and from a club perspective we want to secure a home semi-final, but derby games have more spice and some of us have been at it for ten years or more, so you have a fair indication of what to expect come kick-off!
“Thomond Park is one of the great grounds in world rugby. The biggest thing that hits you when you take to the field is the noise and the supporters, it seems, are right on top of you.
“It’s an intimidating place to play, but these are the venues you want to play and challenge yourself in.”
LEINSTER (v Munster): Rob Kearney; Girvan Dempsey, Fergus McFadden, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Stan Wright, John Fogarty, CJ van der Linde, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Nathan Hines, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Bernard Jackman, Cian Healy, Malcolm O’Kelly, Stephen Keogh, Paul O’Donohoe, Shaun Berne, Eoin O’Malley.