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Conan Earns His First Leinster Start

Conan Earns His First Leinster Start

The Leinster team to face Cardiff Blues in Thursday’s RaboDirect PRO12 match at the Arms Park (kick-off 8.05pm) has been named.

With players once again unavailable due to Ireland commitments this week, the province’s head coach Matt O’Connor has made wholesale changes to his pack and a number of changes to the back-line.

Most notably both Richardt Strauss and Luke Fitzgerald return from injury and are both named to start, albeit that Fitzgerald will again be assessed ahead of the game in Cardiff.

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Following on from last weekend’s powerful display from the forwards, Leinster will be hoping for more of the same but from a completely new starting eight.

Michael Bent, hooker Strauss and Tadhg Furlong make up the front row with Tom Denton and Quinn Roux selected in the second row. Bent will win his 25th Leinster cap at the Arms Park.

In the back row Kevin McLaughlin captains the side from blindside flanker, with Academy player and former Ireland Under-20 international Jack Conan donning the number 8 jersey for his first Leinster senior start.

Dominic Ryan fills the openside berth after impressing off the replacements bench in the bonus point win over the Dragons.

In the backs Noel Reid and Brendan Macken get another outing at centre with this the third game in a row that they have started alongside each other.

Zane Kirchner continues at full-back with Darragh Fanning once again selected on the wing but switching to the right to accommodate Fitzgerald on the left. Should Fitzgerald not be cleared to play, Sam Coghlan Murray will start instead of him.

At half-back Eoin Reddan gets the nod again at scrum half having fully recovered from a calf injury with Jimmy Gopperth lining out in the number 10 shirt.

In the corresponding fixture last September, Leinster won but were made to work very hard for the result in front of a packed RDS, winning 34-20 in the end with tries from Sean Cronin, Dominic Ryan, Ian Madigan and a penalty try.

LEINSTER (v Cardiff Blues): Zane Kirchner; Darragh Fanning, Brendan Macken, Noel Reid, Luke Fitzgerald/Sam Coghlan Murray; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Quinn Roux, Kevin McLaughlin (capt), Dominic Ryan, Jack Conan.

Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Jack O’Connell, Edward Byrne, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Darren Hudson.