Head coach Noel McNamara has named the Leinster ‘A’ team to face English Championship leaders Bristol in round 3 of the British & Irish Cup at Ashton Gate on Friday night (kick-off 7.45pm).
Bryan Byrne will captain the side from the front row alongside Peter Dooley and Vakh Abdaladze, who made his senior debut for Leinster in the closing stages of last Saturday’s GUINNESS PRO14 bonus point win away to Benetton Rugby.
Another player who recently made his Leinster bow, Josh Murphy, starts in the second row with Ian Nagle. There is further PRO14 experience in the back row with Peadar Timmins (eight appearances) and Max Deegan (nine appearances) both selected. Openside flanker Will Connors completes the back row trio.
There are three changes to the back-line from the 29-10 win over the Cardiff Blues Premiership Select in October.
Charlie Rock comes in for Nick McCarthy at scrum half with Cathal Marsh keeping his place as the starting number 10. Conor O’Brien, who made his senior debut against the Dragons last month, shifts to inside centre with Gavin Mullin coming in to don the number 13 shirt.
Versatile back Ciaran Frawley, who started at inside centre last time out, moves to full-back while former Ireland Under-20 captain Jack Kelly starts on the right wing. UCD starlet Tommy O’Brien completes an exciting and youthful back-three.
Ronan Kelleher and Ed Byrne are named as the front row replacements on the bench with Clontarf’s Cormac Daly and Caelan Doris, a regular starter for St. Mary’s also selected. Ian Fitzpatrick and Hugo Keenan are also on bench duty having played for the Ireland Men’s Sevens team at the Dubai 7s Invitational tournament last weekend.
The final replacement at Leinster’s disposal is Hugh O’Sullivan who started at scrum half in the victory away to Doncaster Knights and made an appearance from the bench in round 2 against the Cardiff side.
Speaking ahead of the game against Bristol, head coach Noel McNamara reflected on the performances of his team in the first two rounds and spoke about the challenge of heading to Ashton Gate. “We were pleased with the two performances as much as the results in the first two games,” he told the province’s website.
“It’s a good position to be in, but we’re cognisant of the challenge we face over the course of the next two weekends against what essentially is the best team in the Championship, as things stand. We’ve got a young back-line. It’s young but it’s exciting and we’re looking forward to seeing how they go. We have a young but experienced pack who will need to be at their best this weekend as well.
“Bristol probably rotated their squad a little bit in the first two B&I games. We’re expecting them to go strong this weekend. We’re looking forward to the challenge at Ashton Gate. We’ll be facing a team that is very high in confidence and a team that have a particular style that they’re very comfortable in. It’s a huge challenge for us, but, equally, one that we’re really looking forward to.”
Leinster ‘A’ will entertain Bristol at Donnybrook in the return match on Friday week (December 15) (kick-off 7.30pm). Leinster ‘A’ v Bristol tickets will be available on the gate from €;10 for adults and €;5 for under-18s.
LEINSTER ‘A’ (v Bristol): Ciaran Frawley; Jack Kelly, Gavin Mullin, Conor O’Brien, Tommy O’Brien; Cathal Marsh, Charlie Rock; Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne (capt), Vakh Abdaladze, Josh Murphy, Ian Nagle, Peadar Timmins, Will Connors, Max Deegan.
Replacements: Ronan Kelleher, Ed Byrne, Cormac Daly, Caelan Doris, Hugh O’Sullivan, Ian Fitzpatrick, Hugo Keenan.