After the Captain’s Run this morning, Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has announced his matchday 23 to take on the Newport Gwent Dragons at the RDS on Sunday (kick-off 3pm).
With 12 Leinster players in the Ireland squad to face France, there are nine changes in total to the team that started the final European Champions Cup pool game against Wasps three weeks ago.
Fergus McFadden, Dave Kearney, Jimmy Gopperth, Michael Bent, Kane Douglas and Dominic Ryan are the six players retained from the side that drew 20-all at the Ricoh Arena.
Richardt Strauss and Tadhg Furlong join Bent in the front row, with Tom Denton partnering Douglas in the second row.
The back row is a mix of youth and experience with blindside flanker Ryan combining with Jack Conan at number 8 and openside Shane Jennings, who will captain the province on the occasion of his 203rd cap.
Luke McGrath starts at scrum half with Gopperth outside him. McFadden, who was voted Leinster’s Player of the Month for January, has recovered from the rib injury sustained in the Ireland Wolfhounds game against England Saxons, taking his place on the right wing.
Darragh Fanning is selected on the left wing and Dave Kearney, who has also recovered from the shoulder injury he picked up early on against Wasps, starts at full-back for the first time this season.
Noel Reid and Ben Te’o are once again selected in the centre having last played together in the 22-13 away win over Cardiff Blues last month. Te’o went off with a rib injury that day, while Reid scored the opening try in the bonus point victory.
On the bench, John Cooney, who has been on loan at Connacht this season, has been recalled as scrum half cover with other options limited by international commitments with the Ireland senior and Under-20 squads.
Cooney has, to date, made 27 appearances for Leinster since his debut in September 2011 against the Ospreys and has played five times for Connacht this season having recovered from a shoulder injury.
Matt O’Connor also confirmed that Maks van Dyk’s short-term loan deal with Leinster has come to an end and he has returned to South Africa in time for the new Super Rugby season there with the Cheetahs.
Just over 15,000 tickets have now been sold for Sunday’s GUINNESS PRO12 encounter with the Dragons, which will not be televised. Supporters can still purchase tickets online here.
LEINSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Dave Kearney; Fergus McFadden, Ben Te’o, Noel Reid, Darragh Fanning; Jimmy Gopperth, Luke McGrath; Michael Bent, Richardt Strauss, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Kane Douglas, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings (capt), Jack Conan.
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Peter Dooley, Jamie Hagan, Mike McCarthy, Josh van der Flier, John Cooney, Cathal Marsh, Luke Fitzgerald.