Leinster head coach Leo Cullen has announced the team to play the Southern Kings in Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 clash with the Southern Kings at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth (kick-off 2.15pm local time/1.15pm local time).
Leo Cullen also confirmed that Jamison Gibson-Park and Isa Nacewa returned to Dublin yesterday and have successfully applied for a visa from the South African Embassy. The two players will rejoin the squad on Sunday in Cape Town in preparation for the round 4 game against the Toyota Cheetahs next Friday evening.
Cullen has been able to call upon the services of a number of Ireland internationals that have returned from injury. Joey Carbery takes up the full-back spot for his first competitive outing of the season, with Adam Byrne on the right wing and Dave Kearney also returning from injury to make his first PRO14 start of the season on the left.
Noel Reid has recovered from a hand injury to start in his first game of the season with Rory O’Loughlin outside him in the 13 jersey. Luke McGrath and Ross Byrne are the half-back combination for the second week in a row.
Scrum half McGrath told reporters today: “It’s a great country to play rugby in, I really enjoyed my time here. We’ve had a great few days here so far and all the boys are looking forward to playing out there tomorrow.
“We’ve had two good wins so far but this is a really tough test away in South Africa. We know there is going to be a backlash from the Kings, we watched them in Connacht last week and their second half was pretty impressive.”
Up front, Ed Byrne makes his first start in Leinster colours at loosehead prop. The Carlow native has had to overcome numerous injuries which kept him out of the game between October 2014 and February 2017 but he will now earn his 10th cap from the start. The 24-year-old made his provincial debut in February 2014.
Beside Byrne is Sean Cronin at hooker and Andrew Porter at tighthead. Ross Molony is involved for the first time this season at lock and, beside him, James Ryan gets his first ever start in Leinster colours having won two Ireland caps during the summer tour to the USA and Japan.
Rhys Ruddock will captain the province from the blindside flanker position, with openside Jordi Murphy making his competitive return from the ACL injury he suffered against New Zealand last November. Jack Conan starts at number 8 for the second week in a row, while Cian Healy will win his 175th Leinster cap if sprung from the bench.
LEINSTER (v Southern Kings): Joey Carbery; Adam Byrne, Rory O’Loughlin, Noel Reid, Dave Kearney; Ross Byrne, Luke McGrath; Ed Byrne, Sean Cronin, Andrew Porter, Ross Molony, James Ryan, Rhys Ruddock (capt), Jordi Murphy, Jack Conan.
Replacements: James Tracy, Cian Healy, Michael Bent, Mick Kearney, Josh van der Flier, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Jordan Larmour.