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Cullen Named On Leinster Bench

Cullen Named On Leinster Bench

The Leinster team to face Saracens in Saturday’s Heineken Cup Pool 2 clash at Wembley Stadium (kick-off 5.45pm) has been named.

Leinster coach Joe Schmidt has made two changes in personnel – one of them enforced – to the team that started last weekend’s bonus point victory over Racing Metro 92.

Brian O’Driscoll has failed to recover from the hamstring injury he picked up during the second half of that game, so Shane Horgan returns to the right wing with Luke Fitzgerald partnering Gordon D’Arcy in the centre.

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Horgan, who lies in fourth place in the Heineken Cup’s all-time try-scoring list (26 tries), will make his 80th tournament appearance on Saturday.

Isa Nacewa also switches to the left wing in a back-line which features six Ireland internationals, including half-backs Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan.

South African prop Heinke van der Merwe makes way for Cian Healy in the only change to the starting pack. Healy slots into the front row alongside Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross.

Number 8 Jamie Heaslip will lead the team in what is Leinster’s 99th game in European competition.

In a timely boost for the province, regular captain Leo Cullen has been included in the matchday squad for the first time this season after being named amongst the replacements.

Cullen has not played since dislocating his shoulder in a Magners League game against Edinburgh last May.

The Wicklow man is delighted to be making his return to rugby, particularly as it comes in the first Heineken Cup match to take place at Wembley Stadium.

“It’s great for me. I’ve been to the old Wembley in 1996 for the Challenge Cup final and I was at the Ireland-Wales match a few years later, when I was in the Ireland Under-21s,” he said.

“It has something special about it – it dates back to growing up as a kid. The FA Cup build-up on a Saturday, that excitement. It was before Sky so it was different.

“You didn’t have as much Premiership hype. I’m very fortunate to get a run-out there at some stage this weekend.”

He added: “With the pool being so tight, Saracens need to win this week and they’ll be under a certain amount of pressure to perform. This pool is so difficult, you need to get what you can from every game.

“We got the most we could last week (against Racing) and whatever way the game goes on Saturday, we have to ensure we get as much out of it as possible.

“If it’s a real dogfight, we’ll take a one-point win. If we’re struggling, we’ll take what we can.”

LEINSTER: Rob Kearney; Shane Horgan, Luke Fitzgerald, Gordon D’Arcy, Isa Nacewa; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Nathan Hines, Devin Toner, Sean O’Brien, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip (capt).

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Heinke van der Merwe, Simon Shawe, Leo Cullen, Dominic Ryan, Isaac Boss, Fergus McFadden, Eoin O’Malley.