Head coach Leo Cullen has named the Leinster team to face Newcastle Falcons at Energia Park on Friday in the province’s final pre-season match (kick-off 7pm). Tickets will be available on the gate from 5.30pm tomorrow from ?10/5.
Speaking to Leinster Rugby TV ahead of Friday’s match in Donnybrook, Leo Cullen said: “Newcastle are a team that are very well-coached. They did incredibly well last year if you think they wouldn’t be one of the well-budgeted teams in comparison to some of their Premiership rivals, but they managed to finish fourth last year and make the semi-finals.
“They’re very well-coached, a very well-organised team. They’re used to playing on this artificial surface as well, which is part of the terms of choosing that type of team to play in pre-season. Hopefully, we’ll get a lot out of that as well and the guys can build on what they’ve done over the previous week and get a bit better.
“We won’t have a game the week before the season starts and then we’ll be playing on an artificial surface first up away against Cardiff as well. The guys are working hard and it’s another great opportunity for the team that plays on Friday against Newcastle.”
There are 10 changes to the starting XV from last week’s 18-17 win over Montauban at Stade Sapiac. Scott Fardy comes into captain the side, alongside Mick Kearney in the second row. Josh Murphy is retained at blindside flanker in the back row with WIll Connors coming in for Rhys Ruddock, and Caelan Doris starts at number 8.
Michael Bent starts at tighthead prop once again and will be joined in the front row by Ed Byrne and James Tracy. The centre pairing of Rory O’Loughlin and Joe Tomane remains in place, with the latter set for his home debut in front of Leinster fans tomorrow night.
The province’s top try scorer from last season, Barry Daly, is the other player retained in the back-line from the pre-season opener in France. Dave Kearney, who returned from injury against Montauban, comes in to start at full-back and Ireland Sevens international Hugo Keenan is named on the right wing to complete the back-three.
A new half-back partnership of 20-year-old talent Ciaran Frawley and Jamison Gibson-Park has been selected to face Newcastle, with an extended list of 11 replacements set to be unloaded against the English Premiership outfit.
Secure your place at all of the province’s GUINNESS PRO14 and Heineken Champions Cup regular season matches with a 2018/19 Leinster Rugby Season Ticket. Availability is limited but supporters can still guarantee their spot at every big match by visiting leinsterrugby.ie/seasontickets.
LEINSTER (v Newcastle Falcons): Dave Kearney; Hugo Keenan, Rory O’Loughlin, Joe Tomane, Barry Daly; Ciaran Frawley, Jamison Gibson-Park; Ed Byrne, James Tracy, Michael Bent, Scott Fardy (capt), Mick Kearney, Josh Murphy, Will Connors, Caelan Doris.
Replacements: Peter Dooley, Bryan Byrne, Vakh Abdaladze, Ross Molony, Ian Nagle, Max Deegan, Luke McGrath, Jimmy O’Brien, James Lowe, Tom Daly, Adam Byrne.