Ahead of the Captain’s Run this afternoon, Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his team for the GUINNESS PRO12 trip to Rodney Parade to face the Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday night (kick-off 7.05pm).
With in excess of 30 players missing through Ireland call-ups (senior and Under-20s) and injury, there are a total of 12 changes to the Leinster side that faced Wasps last weekend and a number of first time appearances in the matchday squad for those on the bench.
Luke McGrath has also been named captain for the first time in his Leinster career as he makes his seventh start of the campaign. It is his most starts to date in a single season, with a total of 38 appearances to date.
There is one positional switch in the backs as Zane Kirchner, a try scorer last week, switches from the right wing to full-back, while Fergus McFadden returns from suspension to take his place on the left wing and Academy winger Adam Byrne makes his first start for Leinster on the right wing just over three years after his first and only cap to date.
On that occasion Byrne came off the bench against Connacht in a 17-0 home win to become the youngest player to ever play for Leinster at just 18 years, eight months and twenty days. Injuries have cut across his progress since then but the UCD clubman has been performing very well this season for UCD in the Ulster Bank League, Leinster ‘A’ in the British & Irish Cup and indeed with the Ireland Sevens team.
Ben Te’o and Garry Ringrose renew their partnership in the centre this week, while St. Michael’s College past pupils Luke McGrath and Cathal Marsh fill the number 9 and 10 jerseys respectively.
In the pack Peter Dooley, James Tracy and Michael Bent start in the front row with all three starters last week either in Ireland camp or injured.
Ross Molony is joined by Hayden Triggs in the second row. Triggs makes his first start since he injured his ankle in the Champions Cup game against Bath in November, an injury that subsequently required surgery.
Dominic Ryan at blindside flanker and Jordi Murphy at number 8 are retained from last weekend, while Dan Leavy comes into the pack at openside. Leavy is the leading try scorer in this season’s British & Irish Cup with eight tries in the six pool games.
On the bench, Academy players Jeremy Loughman, Oisin Heffernan and Peadar Timmins are all in line to make their senior debuts for the province. Loughman and Heffernan are both in their first year in the Academy and Timmins, who has captained the Leinster ‘A’ team this season, is in his second.
LEINSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Zane Kirchner; Adam Byrne, Garry Ringrose, Ben Te’o, Fergus McFadden; Cathal Marsh, Luke McGrath (capt); Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Hayden Triggs, Dominic Ryan, Dan Leavy, Jordi Murphy.
Replacements: Richardt Strauss, Jeremy Loughman, Oisin Heffernan, Tadhg Beirne, Peadar Timmins, Isaac Boss, Ian Madigan, Noel Reid.