The Leinster team to play Exeter Chiefs in Saturday’s decisive Heineken Cup round 6 showdown at Sandy Park (kick-off 6pm) has been named.
Richardt Strauss will start in the front row after missing the last month with an ankle injury and, in all, the Ireland hooker is one of three changes to the pack that started last weekend’s round 5 victory over the Scarlets.
Sean O’Brien has recovered from illness to join fellow returnee Kevin McLaughlin and Ireland’s confirmed Six Nations captain Jamie Heaslip in the back row.
Strauss, meanwhile, will scrum down alongside fellow Ireland internationals Cian Healy and Mike Ross, with the latter set to make his 80th appearance for the province.
Leo Cullen leads the experienced line-up which also sees Brian O’Driscoll, a second half replacement against the Scarlets, resume his centre partnership with Gordon D’Arcy.
O’Driscoll, who is in line to make his 82nd Heineken Cup appearance, is one of two changes to the back-line with Eoin Reddan selected to partner Jonathan Sexton at half-back.
Rob Kearney continues in a talented back-three combination alongside Luke Fitzgerald, the man-of-the-match last time out, and Isa Nacewa.
With a nod to Exeter’s efforts in their 9-6 first round defeat at the RDS, flanker O’Brien said: “Well, we can take it that they’re a very physical bunch of lads. Their work-rate is outstanding and I think that that’s what they pride themselves on. They’re a very fit team, they have very strong set pieces.
“They are just very good and they’re very dangerous. We know all that about them now and we know how they can play when they have the ball.
“They have a very agile back row with all three of them very smart. So, we’re going to have to keep an eye on them.
“They caused us a bit of hassle that (first) day in the ruck and in their counter-rucking. Causing a nuisance really, so we have to tighten up that area and, hopefully, it won’t be a problem.”
LEINSTER (v Exeter Chiefs): Rob Kearney; Isa Nacewa, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jonathan Sexton, Eoin Reddan; Cian Healy, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Devin Toner, Kevin McLaughlin, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Heinke van der Merwe, Michael Bent, Rhys Ruddock, Shane Jennings, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Fergus McFadden.