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Fitzgerald To Start For Leinster

Fitzgerald To Start For Leinster

The Leinster team to face the Ospreys in Friday’s Magners League clash at the RDS (kick-off 7.35pm) has been named.

Leinster head coach Joe Schmidt has made 11 changes in personnel to the team that secured a bonus point victory over Connacht last Saturday.

Luke Fitzgerald starts at full-back in an all-Ireland qualified back-line for the visit of the Ospreys in a game which will mark the province’s 50th competitive encounter at the RDS.

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It will be Fitzgerald’s first game back since injurying his knee in Ireland’s defeat to New Zealand in November.

He lines up in a back-three which includes the in-form Shane Horgan and Fergus McFadden, with Brian O’Driscoll partnering Gordon D’Arcy at centre and Jonathan Sexton and Eoin Reddan resuming their half-back partnership.

There are five changes up front. Leo Cullen skippers the side from the second row, with Dominic Ryan and Jamie Heaslip restored to the back row.

In the front row, Heinke van der Merwe and Clint Newland have made way for Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Mike Ross.

Isaac Boss, Nathan Hines and Rhys Ruddock have been named on a replacements bench which contains a mix of youth and experience and a decision on the final outside back replacement will be made closer to kick-off.

Leinster forwards coach Jono Gibbes said: “They (the Ospreys) have shown they have grown and developed and can withstand a bit of pressure.

“They were also able to get back into the game through the scrum, which seems to have grown another arm and a leg. They seem to have gained confidence out of it.

“We have had a nice little bit of growth with our scrum this season but every game is a little bit different. They could come with different tactics.

“The referee could interpret things a little bit differently. We need to be adaptable but we need to be focused or we could get embarrassed at home.”

Emphasising that point, flanker Shane Jennings added: “If we take our eye off the Ospreys, they will do a job on us. The last time they came over here, they won the league. It’s a game we’re looking forward to.

“The Ospreys also beat us over there a few weeks ago. So we’re up for a big, big game. They have a very good team, a very good squad.

“Whatever lads come over we know we are in for a tough game. Every game for us is big because we are fighting to get into those top-four positions.”

*As part of a special promotion, any supporters who have a match ticket for Friday’s game or a valid season ticket membership card for this year and are driving a Volkswagen car can park in the Simmonscourt Car Park for free.

Ticket sales are approaching the 16,000 mark and are available to purchase here, or from Spar (Donnybrook), the Leinster Rugby Store (Donnybrook), Champion Sports (Grafton Street) as well as Ticketmaster outlets nationwide.

Tickets will also be on sale from outlets on Simmonscourt Road and Anglesea Road from 4.30pm on Friday.

LEINSTER (v Ospreys): Luke Fitzgerald; Shane Horgan, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Fergus McFadden; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: Jason Harris-Wright, Heinke van der Merwe, Clint Newland, Nathan Hines, Rhys Ruddock, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Eoin O’Malley/Isa Nacewa.