In selecting his team for Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 opener against the Dragons in Newport (kick-off 3.15pm), head coach Leo Cullen has used the opportunity to hand a Leinster debut to two players at different ends of the age and experience spectrum.
33-year-old Australian international Scott Fardy will start in the second row for his provincial debut, while former St. Andrew’s College student Jordan Larmour (20) wins his first cap on the left wing.
There is also the potential for a third Leinster debut in the form of lock James Ryan who is named among the replacements. Ryan made his Test debut for Ireland on the recent summer tour to the USA and Japan.
In other team news, Rob Kearney makes a very welcome return at full-back nearly eight months on from last competitive outing in blue against Castres Olympique in the Champions Cup.
Adam Byrne, who scored ten tries in all competitions last season, starts on the right wing with Larmour on the left. Isa Nacewa will captain the side from the centre with newly-capped Ireland international Rory O’Loughlin alongside him. Half-backs Jamison Gibson-Park and Ross Byrne pick up where they left off at Donnybrook last week.
Up front, Cian Healy makes his first appearance of the 2017/18 campaign having not featured in any of the pre-season matches. Beside him, Sean Cronin is back at hooker after hamstring and neck injuries hampered the second half of last season, with tighthead prop Michael Bent completing the front row.
Devin Toner is set for his 199th appearance for Leinster in the second row. The Meath man is joined by the 39 times-capped Australian Fardy. Joining Dan Leavy and Josh van der Flier in the back row is Max Deegan who dons the number 8 jersey for his first senior start for Leinster and his fourth cap overall.
LEINSTER (v Dragons): Rob Kearney; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Isa Nacewa (capt), Jordan Larmour; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Cian Healy, Sean Cronin, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, Max Deegan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, James Ryan, Jack Conan, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Barry Daly.