After the Captain’s Run this morning, Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor has announced the team to face Zebre at the RDS in the GUINNESS PRO12 on Friday (kick-off 7.35pm).
With Ton Denton, Noel Reid and Richardt Strauss ruled out as they continue through the return-to-play protocols, there are a number of changes in personnel with seven in total – three in the forwards and four in the backs.
Zane Kirchner returns from injury and starts at full-back with Fergus McFadden on the right wing and Luke Fitzgerald starting this weekend on the left wing. Gordon D’Arcy comes in at inside centre with Ben Te’o outside him at 13.
In the half-backs there is a return from a knee injury for Eoin Reddan who has not played since the 20-all draw with Wasps in the European Champions Cup. While beside him, Jimmy Gopperth will win his 50th cap for Leinster. To date, the New Plymouth native has scored 299 points in the blue of Leinster (four tries, 48 conversions, 60 penalties and one drop goal).
In the front row Michael Bent starts once more at loosehead prop with Martin Moore coming in at tighthead and Aaron Dundon filling the hooker berth. In the second row Mike McCarthy and Kane Douglas are the starting pair, while there is no change to the back row from last weekend with Dominic Ryan, captain Shane Jennings and number 8 Jack Conan all starting again.
Cian Healy makes a welcome return to Leinster colours and is in line to make his first appearance off the bench since the PRO12 game against the Scarlets in September.
LEINSTER (v Zebre): Zane Kirchner; Fergus McFadden, Ben Te’o, Gordon D’Arcy, Luke Fitzgerald; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Michael Bent, Aaron Dundon, Martin Moore, Mike McCarthy, Kane Douglas, Dominic Ryan, Shane Jennings (capt), Jack Conan.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Cian Healy, Tadhg Furlong, Ben Marshall, Dan Leavy, Isaac Boss, Cathal Marsh, Dave Kearney.