Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced his first home team of the GUINNESS PRO14 season, and with it, welcomes back a number of players for their first involvement of the new campaign.
But the night and the occasion belongs to Meath man Devin Toner who will lead the team out on the occasion of his 200th cap for Leinster. In doing so, he becomes only the sixth Leinster player to have achieved that milestone with Jamie Heaslip the only other double centurion in the province’s current squad.
Toner has scored three tries in his 199 caps to date, with the last one coming in September 2012 against the Scarlets. The towering 6ft 10in lock made his debut in January 2006 in a home win against Border Reivers and will be hoping for a similar result on Friday, a full 12 seasons on.
Elsewhere, Leo Cullen has picked the same back-line – bar one change – that accounted for the Dragons last Saturday at Rodney Parade. Ireland scrum half Luke McGrath returns at half-back where he starts beside Ross Byrne.
Otherwise it is as you were with Rob Kearney at full back, Adam Byrne on the right wing and St. Mary’s starlet Jordan Larmour, who enjoyed a try-scoring debut against the Dragons, on the left for his first senior game at the RDS. Isa Nacewa captains the side from inside centre with Rory O’Loughlin on his shoulder.
Cian Healy and Michael Bent are selected again as the starting props but the Ireland-capped James Tracy comes in at hooker for his first start of the new season. The second row pairing of Scott Fardy and Toner is unchanged, as the 39-times capped Australian international makes his RDS debut.
There are two changes to the back row with only openside flanker Josh van der Flier retained. Rhys Ruddock is involved for the first time this season, fresh from captaining Ireland during their unbeaten summer tour of the USA and Japan. Jack Conan is the final name in Cullen’s starting XV having impressed off the bench against Dragons, while the replacements this week include Mick Kearney who is poised for his seasonal debut.
Tickets for Leinster’s first home game of the GUINNESS PRO14 season against Cardiff Blues are on sale online now. Tickets are available from €;20.
LEINSTER (v Cardiff Blues): Rob Kearney; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Isa Nacewa (capt), Jordan Larmour; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Cian Healy, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Devin Toner, Scott Fardy, Rhys Ruddock, Josh van der Flier, Jack Conan.
Replacements: Sean Cronin, Ed Byrne, Andrew Porter, Mick Kearney, Dan Leavy, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Barry Daly.