After the Captain’s Run this morning, Leinster head coach Matt O’Connor announced his starting line-up for Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 game against Benetton Treviso at the RDS (kick-off 7.35pm).
There are five changes to the Leinster team that lost to Ulster two weeks ago, with three alterations in the backs and two in the forwards.
Dave Kearney has recovered from his hip flexor strain to take his place on the left wing, coming in for Luke Fitzgerald who had surgery last weekend on his left shoulder. Zane Kirchner is selected on the right wing, with Rob Kearney again at full-back.
Ian Madigan returns to his midfield berth with Ben Te’o starting once more at outside centre for his 13th game of the campaign. To date he has scored four tries. Eoin Reddan and Jimmy Gopperth complete the back-line, selected at scrum half and out-half respectively.
Barring a play-off for Champions Cup qualification, Friday’s round 21 fixture will mark Gopperth’s last home game in the blue of Leinster before he leaves for Wasps in the summer. To date the New Zealander has scored 347 points in 57 appearances for the province.
Jack McGrath starts in the front row, combining with fellow Ireland internationals Richardt Strauss and Mike Ross. Devin Toner and Mike McCarthy pair up again in the second row. The Treviso match will be McCarthy’s 50th cap since his move from Connacht two seasons ago.
The starting back row consists of Jordi Murphy at blindside flanker, Sean O’Brien at openside and Jamie Heaslip captains the side from the base of the scrum.
With Shane Jennings due to retire at the end of the season and Gordon D’Arcy hanging up his boots at the end of October, Leinster supporters are being asked to pay their respects to two stalwarts of the province at the RDS on Friday.
Jennings (206 caps) will be introduced to the crowd just beforehand, while the 260-times capped D’Arcy will be introduced to the crowd after the game. A golden opportunity to thank and to wish well two great servants of the game in both blue and green.
In addition, the Official Leinster Supporters Club will be making a presentation to both players afterwards in Laighin Out bar.
Ticket sales for Leinster v Benetton Treviso have exceeded the 16,000 mark, but tickets are still available at www.leinsterrugby.ie/tickets.
LEINSTER (v Benetton Treviso): Rob Kearney; Zane Kirchner, Ben Te’o, Ian Madigan, Dave Kearney; Jimmy Gopperth, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Richardt Strauss, Mike Ross, Devin Toner, Mike McCarthy, Jordi Murphy, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip (capt).
Replacements: Aaron Dundon, Michael Bent, Tadhg Furlong, Tom Denton, Jack Conan, Isaac Boss, Gordon D’Arcy, Darragh Fanning.