The Leinster team to face Edinburgh in the final game of the RaboDirect PRO12 regular season at the RDS on Saturday (kick-off 6.30pm) has been named.
Head coach Matt O’Connor has made eight changes in total to the team that beat Ulster, but it is one change in particular in the back row that will garner most attention and will delight Leinster supporters.
Sean O’Brien is set to make his first appearance in the RaboDirect PRO12 since the December fixture against Ulster at the RDS that ultimately threatened his entire season.
Carried off that evening with a shoulder injury, it was thought that his season would be over but his recovery has gone to plan and is actually ahead of schedule – so much so that O’Connor has recalled him to the starting line-up at a most crucial point in the year.
Jordi Murphy and Jamie Heaslip complete the back row, Murphy coming in for one of last weekend’s try scorers, Shane Jennings.
The other alterations in the pack see a completely new front row as recently-crowned Leinster Rugby Players’ Player of the Year Jack McGrath lines out together with hooker Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross.
The retiring Leo Cullen captains the side from the second row, in place of Devin Toner, with Mike McCarthy beside him.
There are two changes to the backs with Rob Kearney making way for the returning Fergus McFadden who takes his place on the right wing, with Zane Kirchner taking over in the number 15 jersey.
McFadden’s return is another timely boost as there had been doubts about whether or not he could return in time for the end of season run-in, having picked up a knee injury in the away loss to Toulon.
Dave Kearney is once again selected on the left wing, with Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll continuing in the centre.
The final change is a straight swap at out-half where Jimmy Gopperth comes in for his 27th Leinster cap, with 212 points to his name this year. Ian Madigan reverts to the bench.
Leinster supporters are urged to get to the ground early with it being KIDS TAKE OVER day! There is a BBQ for all and the first 500 fans will get a free burger.
There are plenty of other activities and fun for the whole family and the province also have 15 mascots, one for each player as they enter the pitch.
Saturday evening is also being used to wish two of Leinster’s greatest ever players a fond farewell. A bumper special edition matchday programme looking back over Leo Cullen and Brian O’Driscoll’s respective careers in the blue of Leinster will be sold at the RDS.
In addition, after the game, there will be an on-pitch presentation to Leo and Brian with Des Cahill as MC – Leinster are asking all fans to stay around to show your appreciation for the retiring heroes.
Leinster Rugby are encouraging supporters to use the hashtag #ThanksLads across Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to express your gratitude for Leo and Brian and some of the best ones have already been selected and will appear in the matchday programme.
LEINSTER (v Edinburgh): Zane Kirchner; Fergus McFadden, Brian O’Driscoll, Gordon D’Arcy, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Isaac Boss; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Leo Cullen (capt), Mike McCarthy, Sean O’Brien, Jordi Murphy, Jamie Heaslip.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Martin Moore, Rhys Ruddock, Dominic Ryan, Luke McGrath, Ian Madigan, Rob Kearney.