Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his team for Friday’s GUINNESS PRO12 trip to Rodney Parade to take on the Newport Gwent Dragons (kick-off 7.30pm).
There is a welcome return to the province’s starting XV for Ireland internationals Fergus McFadden and Rhys Ruddock, while Carlow youngster Ed Byrne is also in line to make his long-awaited return after over two years out through injury.
Last Friday’s bonus point win over Edinburgh saw Leinster finish the game with 14 fit players, so it is no surprise to see four changes in the backs – plus two positional switches – and a further four changes in the pack.
Joey Carbery will make his first start at full-back for Leinster but the Athy native has played there a number of times during matches already this season – most recently against Benetton Treviso and Edinburgh.
Adam Byrne starts on the right wing, looking to add to his tally of nine tries in all competitions this season. On the left wing McFadden is back for his first appearance since October’s encounter with Cardiff Blues. Injury has restricted the Kildare man to only two games in total all season.
There is a new centre combination this week with Noel Reid and Zane Kirchner donning the number 12 and 13 jerseys respectively. A day after his 25th birthday, Jamison Gibson Park picks up cap number 21 at scrum half, with UCD’s Ross Byrne completing the half-back pairing.
Up front, Peter Dooley again lines up at loosehead prop with Richardt Strauss back to captain the side from hooker and Michael Bent featuring at tighthead for his 80th Leinster cap.
It is as you were in the second row with Ross Molony and Mike McCarthy joining forces, while Ruddock returns from a quad injury to start at blindside flanker. Meath man Peadar Timmins will make his first start for Leinster at openside having made five appearances off the bench to date, with Jack Conan continuing at number 8.
On the bench for the trip to Wales is young prop Ed Byrne who has made a remarkable recovery from two knee injuries. He has not played a competitive senior game for Leinster in nearly 28 months having suffered two knee injuries against Edinburgh in the PRO12 (October 2014) and then against Ulster in a pre-season friendly nearly a year later during his comeback match (August 2015).
Lansdowne’s Max Deegan is hoping to win his second cap off the bench, while St. Mary’s ace Cathal Marsh is in a senior matchday squad for the first time since recovering from a hand injury.
The Dragons v Leinster clash is not being broadcast on TV or radio, so the Leinster Rugby social media platforms will be the best source for up-to-date match information.
LEINSTER (v Newport Gwent Dragons): Joey Carbery; Adam Byrne, Zane Kirchner, Noel Reid, Fergus McFadden; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson Park; Peter Dooley, Richardt Strauss (capt), Michael Bent, Ross Molony, Mike McCarthy, Rhys Ruddock, Peadar Timmins, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Mike Ross, Hayden Triggs, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, Cathal Marsh, Barry Daly.